Skip to content. | Skip to navigation.

Navigation

Part 4: Improving services to tenants

Using information to improve social housing services.

4.1
In this Part, we discuss how Housing New Zealand could improve services to its tenants by using its own information better and by better sharing information and collaborating with the Ministry.

Summary of our findings

4.2
Housing New Zealand and the Ministry need to improve how they share information about tenants. More clarity on each organisation's roles and responsibilities in meeting the needs of tenants, particularly after they are placed in a house, would also improve information sharing. Processes need to be set up between the two organisations to ensure that information sharing is efficient for both tenants and staff.

4.3
There are opportunities for Housing New Zealand to improve its responsiveness to, and ongoing communication with, its tenants by providing them with better information on their tenancy and making access to services easier. Housing New Zealand could also bring together the regular customer satisfaction information it collects with complaints data more effectively to improve its services.

4.4
Housing New Zealand has several initiatives that are focused on improving the quality of its services for its tenants. Housing New Zealand needs to build on the success of these initiatives and the lessons from them.

Housing New Zealand and the Ministry need to share information more effectively

4.5
Since the 2014 changes under the Social Housing Reform Programme, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry have had to learn how to work together in their new roles. Housing New Zealand and the Ministry are willing to work together, and both organisations consider that information sharing has improved over time.

4.6
However, in our view, more could be done. In particular, there is a need to continue to improve and put into effect stronger leadership and collaboration for information sharing.

4.7
There were several areas where better use of information, better sharing of information, and the two organisations working together more closely would improve services for tenants.

Understanding tenants' social housing needs over time

4.8
At the moment, a complete picture of a person's experiences of social housing over time is not available. Information needs to be put together from a tenant's perspective that would allow a better understanding of who is in social housing, how long they have been in social housing, and their changing use of social housing over time. This would help the Ministry and Housing New Zealand understand who benefits most from social housing.

Roles and responsibilities of each organisation

4.9
After a person is placed in a house, there is a lack of clarity about the roles and responsibilities of each organisation when working with a person with complex needs or who is in a situation that is negatively affecting their tenancy. This lack of clarity also negatively affects the consistency and level of information sharing between the two organisations.

4.10
Many of Housing New Zealand's tenants are unsure about which organisation to approach about their housing issues. They are also frustrated because they feel that they give the same information to both organisations.

4.11
Of the social service and advocacy groups surveyed, 39% thought that people in social housing were clear about Housing New Zealand's role. Only 30% thought that the Ministry and Housing New Zealand shared information effectively to meet the needs of tenants.

4.12
Information sharing between the organisations was more effective where there were strong local relationships.

Setting up processes for information sharing

4.13
Housing New Zealand and the Ministry need to develop stronger processes for sharing information to resolve issues effectively and efficiently for tenants.

4.14
Tenants and Housing New Zealand staff were frustrated by the time it takes to resolve some issues, including:

  • getting the documentation and information needed for income-related rent reviews, which takes a lot of Housing New Zealand staff time despite being a Ministry function;
  • collecting and monitoring issues through the email inbox system (which was set up by the two organisations to work through issues experienced by tenants);
  • the accuracy of information received from the Ministry about people applying for social housing; and
  • the Ministry giving updated information to Housing New Zealand.

Improving communication with tenants

4.15
The social service and advocacy groups we surveyed said that Housing New Zealand could improve its responsiveness and communication with tenants. Of the social service and advocacy groups surveyed, 61% indicated that it was difficult or very difficult for tenants to easily access help from Housing New Zealand to resolve issues. Respondents commented that managers can be slow to follow up on issues and that they sometimes have to wait a long time when calling the contact centre.

4.16
In the June 2017 survey Housing New Zealand carried out of 500 tenants, 58% of respondents were satisfied that their tenancy manager helped to resolve issues.

4.17
The contact centre is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although Housing New Zealand recently reported that 84% of calls were answered within four minutes (when the target was 80%), waiting times at certain hours were much longer.

4.18
Figures 5 and 6 show the maximum waiting times when calling about a maintenance issue. The percentage of calls that are abandoned is also higher at the times when there is more likely to be a longer wait. Tenancy managers report that people are frequently frustrated when calling the contact centre because of long waiting times.

4.19
Housing New Zealand is looking to improve its responsiveness, including making it easier for tenants to make contact. It is looking to bring in a phone app for tenants that will initially allow tenants to respond to text messages. Housing New Zealand has also initiated a call-back option for contact centre calls, which is increasingly being taken up.

Figure 5
Maximum contact centre waiting times for maintenance issue calls, by hour of the day, 2016/17

Source: Based on Housing New Zealand Corporation's data.

Figure 6
Maximum contact centre waiting times for maintenance issue calls, by day of the week, 2016/17

Source: Based on Housing New Zealand Corporation's data.

Using customer feedback information more effectively

4.20
Housing New Zealand has a complaints process, which includes a process for escalating issues. It also runs regular surveys of customer satisfaction and of call centre and tenancy relocation satisfaction.

4.21
However, there are issues with how this information is collected. For example:

  • Not all complaints data is recorded.
  • There is no consistent process for how complaints should be managed.
  • Customer satisfaction data is limited in its ability to show trends over time, apart from at the highest levels.
  • The contact centre survey data cannot be currently tracked back to individuals to follow up on issues and is based on small sample sizes with a low response rate.

4.22
Housing New Zealand could improve how it uses its complaints, satisfaction, and survey information. For example, Housing New Zealand could collate customer satisfaction information from throughout the organisation to make improvements and focus satisfaction measures on outcomes for tenants. If Housing New Zealand used this information well, it would improve its services.

Initiatives to improve the quality of services for social housing tenants

4.23
Housing New Zealand has started looking at whether it can categorise people into different groups based on how much time and help they need from its staff. Understanding these groups and their needs should help Housing New Zealand identify those who need the most support.

4.24
Housing New Zealand is also looking at how it can use information to reduce the time it takes to have a house ready for a person to move in. A pilot in Auckland started in 2017 (with a person focused on co-ordinating all the work and steps required to prepare the house and find the right tenant), and results look positive. Housing New Zealand's most recent data from the pilot indicates that it takes 20 days to place a person in a vacated property (the average for 2016/17 was 34 days).

4.25
At a local level, tenancy managers and other local staff are involved in several initiatives aimed at building stronger communities. For example, Housing New Zealand introduced buildings with swipe-card access and regular security patrols. Housing New Zealand can see who is accessing these buildings and use this information to check regularly on vulnerable people.

4.26
Housing New Zealand has also set up a community café in one of its apartment blocks for people to socialise with each other. There has been a reduction in police calls to this apartment block and positive feedback from residents.

4.27
In our view, Housing New Zealand needs to build on the success of these initiatives, and the lessons from them, to improve the quality of its services for its tenants.

Recommendation 2
We recommend that Housing New Zealand Corporation and the Ministry of Social Development:
  • improve the way information about people applying for social housing and who subsequently move into a Housing New Zealand house is shared; and
  • strengthen the relationships between their staff, particularly frontline staff, ensuring that they have a clear understanding of each organisation's role and functions.
Recommendation 3
We recommend that Housing New Zealand Corporation continue to improve communication with its tenants so they can easily contact someone to deal with any issues.
page top
Report details

CoverUsing information to improve social housing services

ISBN 978-0-478-44282-3