When Housing Met Social: A Round-Up Of The CIH Housing Conference 2021

There’s a lot happening in housing right now. We headed to Manchester for the 2021 Chartered Institute of Housing conference, Housing, to find out the latest.

A warm welcome 

Firstly, what a vibe. It’s always exhilarating to attend a conference filled with thought leaders sharing ideas to tackle the challenges faced by their sector. And of course, everyone was happy to be back #IRL after 18 months of virtual meetings.

Safe as houses 

So, what’s new in housing? The 6,000 attendees heard about significant changes, like how the sector is tackling the biggest emergency of our time – the climate crisis – by decarbonising. We learnt about advances in building safety and in the delivery of new homes.  

It’s an industry filled with socially conscious people ready to make a positive difference. Housing is in safe hands. 

Digital living 

The biggest theme of the event by far was the digital transformation that’s taken place in housing. And no surprises when it comes to the reason behind this shift. 

With the disruption caused by Covid, the housing sector saw a huge move towards digital comms. In fact, 66% of housing associations started to use social media during this time. One of the biggest talking points was how to evolve digital comms effectively, while keeping people at the heart of everything. With a topic as important as housing, there’s a strong need for human connection. 

Although chat bots, voice recognition and social media played a vital role in keeping services running when we were confined by Covid, they shouldn’t replace all human contact. No one’s denying that digital comms are here to stay, but the way forward is to embrace tech AND traditional communication channels side by side to enrich the housing sector. 

Left out in the cold 

As an industry, housing has to look out for people who could be left behind by the transition to digital. Housing associations and related industries often serve people who are vulnerable, older, or in financially difficult circumstances, all of which could mean they struggle to access the devices and internet connection most of us take for granted.  

Kathryn Fox-Rogers, COO of Johnnie Johnson Housing, recommended that housing associations make closing the digital poverty divide part of their social value obligation, protecting residents from being excluded. It’s an idea we can really get behind. 

Those in glass houses… 

It’s undeniable that on social, everyone can see how you deal with complaints and difficulties. The way your organisation handles customer service has an enormous impact on people’s lives – after all, a problem with your home can be extremely stressful to resolve.  

But the Chief Exec of Riverside Housing, Carol Matthews, said the answer to this is simple: apologise when you get things wrong. Publicly admitting fault is a great diffuser of tensions and means you can move on to a solution as positively as possible. And an organisation that shows it addresses and learns from its mistakes is one that people trust. 


The big takeaway from the conference was that CEOs and directors will be looking to tackle digitisation at a strategic level.  

If you’re looking to deliver the best service to your customers on social media, book a free demo with our team, to see what our platform can do for you.  

Further Reading