Should social housing landlords provide WiFi access to residents?
Local authorities and housing associations know the importance of providing high-quality facilities and residences on a strict budget. ONS figures show that it’s becoming increasingly rare to own your own home, and many that do buy a place of their own are doing so later in life.
Access to the internet is a right, not a privilege
Access to a stable, high-speed, internet connection is now regarded as an essential utility, rather than a luxury – one that people in social housing need access to. The Government’s “Digital Inclusion” initiative seeks to open up access to further education, allow more job-hunting and networking via social media and allow people to access training to advance their skills and career prospects.
This is essential for everyone, regardless of their housing status, and it’s an important factor for social housing landlords to get right.
A service that matches the flexibility of renting
Social housing tenancies can range from 12 to 36 months or even longer in some cases. But some can be significantly shorter, so residents are often reluctant to take out a lengthy broadband contract no matter how much they need access to the Internet. While many landlords leave internet provision up to individual residents, a managed or Pay-As-You-Go solution is a more attractive option, especially in cases where shorter tenancies are common. This allows tenants to avoid 12-month minimum contracts, but still gives them access to online government services, job sites and other essential services.
The landlord could provide a robust wireless connection, with good coverage in all required areas. Tenants would have access to reliable, high-speed internet in their homes and in any common areas in and around their residence.
Using the same infrastructure, landlords could also provide a free WiFi network to guests and staff, which allows mobile working across numerous sites.
When a tenancy ends, and the resident leaves, they don’t need to worry about cancelling their services as they are billed through their landlord.
Providing a service
Whether or not a tenant rents privately, or through a social scheme, it’s important to remember that landlords are providing a service to a customer. If the WiFi service provided is robust, high-speed and managed well, if there are no issues with billing or problems with blocking legal sites, it should present an attractive option for residents.
Landlords can also use the connection to run estates and buildings more efficiently. Using connected devices, the landlord can have more control over heating and power. It could also use the devices for site security and maintenance (controlling sprinkler systems, CCTV and operating security doors, for example). These systems could potentially save more money over time, which can be invested back into the properties.
Social housing landlords are not only providing a much-needed service, they’re often tasked with providing the stable foundation on which families, students and the elderly can build their lives.
A robust and high-speed internet connection is a basic expectation these days, and landlords need to consider what their role is in providing this utility. Many of their residents will be able to arrange and can afford their own broadband contract, but many won’t. Rather than leaving these people behind, social housing landlords need to offer a flexible and affordable service that enables everyone of their residents to get online.