London & Quadrant (L&Q) Group has been at the forefront of building quality affordable housing for over half a century. But with a rapidly accelerating future, both in terms of demand, and the evolution of innovation, what do they see as the greatest challenges – and opportunities – ahead?
L&Q Group: combining social purpose with commercial drive
The L&Q Group houses around 250,000 people in more than 95,000 homes, primarily across London and the South East and is, in fact, London’s largest provider of affordable housing. We were born out of a ‘new wave’ of housing associations created in the 1960s and have worked ever since to combine social purpose with a commercial drive to create quality, affordable homes and neighbourhoods for all. Our vision is, quite simply, that everyone should have a quality home they can afford. So we have a rich heritage of innovating – whether that be out of a difficult time, or towards an ambitious goal. But times are changing – and rapidly so – and we need to innovate quickly too. But how?
Tackling the housing crisis
Right now, we are dreaming big and delivering pragmatically to meet our ambitious targets in challenging times. Over the next 10 years, we will be building to help tackle the housing crisis. We have also made a renewed commitment to quality, not just in relation to the condition of homes we are building but also to the experiences of people who live in our existing homes.
The many highlights of L&Q’s 56-year history have enabled us to accelerate towards our social purpose in a way which is better, faster, or lower cost. Applying that to our modern challenge means creating better quality homes and experiences, faster construction and service provision, to lower the cost of management and production creating the capacity to deliver more homes which are truly affordable.
Laying the foundations for the future
During the last 6 months, we have been laying foundations for the future and have:
- developed and begun implementation of our Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) roadmap, to enable L&Q to deliver all our new-build homes using some form of offsite construction by 2025.
- established a sector-leading deal with a fibre-to-the-home internet service provider to bring high-speed internet to all of our customers and our buildings before 2021. By the end of this programme, all our customers will have access to affordable, high-speed broadband and we’re likely to be the UK’s first significant landlord to have on-premise broadband at all the multiple-occupancy buildings we manage.
- started experimenting with technology and service trends which are transforming connected industries.
- created internal mechanisms which create pan-group visibility of modernisation programmes, helping us to prioritise challenges, and enabling the use of our collective talents to create ideas which will transform our organisation.
- set up a multi-disciplinary innovation team to repair the housing market for a generation of younger people struggling with the affordability of homes and at higher risk of homelessness.
Fact-checking the assumptions we make about housing
Fact and opinion are blurred in all of our minds and so decisions we make which we believe are made on a factual basis, might in fact be based on assumptions and prejudices developed over time, professionally or otherwise.
As housing professionals, we are no different, and so at L&Q we’ve made the decision to be data hungry in all areas of our business in order to aid better decision making.
Technology, including the internet (and Internet of Things), has made data more readily available, easier to cross-reference, analyse, and understand. This offers new ways to gain insights into what our customer experience is really like, so our operational teams are beginning to interrogate physical assets to capture their data.
Data is anything from which insight can be gathered, and there are many ways to find out what our customer experience is really like.
Understanding the experience of customers of Housing Associations represents a new, human-centred approach to thinking about housing as a service. We are talking about millions of entire lives, each of which will have much in common and also lots that is unique and different.
In partnership with the Future Cities Catapult, we have started to identify the friction points, causes of anxiety and also the aspirations which our customers have in common.
We’re creating a backlog of challenges to which we can apply purposeful, design-driven innovation for the highest impact.
Tom Way is the Innovation Manager at L&Q Group, a charitable housing association and one of the UK’s most successful independent social businesses.