25 November, 2016

Community Investment and the Bottom Line: Investigating associations between community investment and housing providers’ costs using advanced data science techniques

Community investment and supporting tenants to live successful lives in vibrant neighbourhoods is nothing new for the affordable housing sector. A relatively hidden jewel in the crown, it has often been part of the ‘heart’ of the sector, something that expresses the social purpose of our organisations and recognises that the business of affordable housing is more than just providing a great place to live.

But in recent years, our investment in programmes that help tenants into work, to manage their money better or improve their health and wellbeing, has come under increasing scrutiny. We need to be clear about the value our investment delivers, for our tenants and communities, our businesses and our ability to address the housing crisis we all face.

HACT’s UK Social Value Bank is helping organisations to understand the outcomes they deliver and provides a way to measure and describe its social value. Housing providers already know that helping tenants to manage their money and tenancies, get them online, and into work can help mitigate the risks of welfare reform and Universal Credit, both for the individual and their business.

What has been missing is an understanding of the direct business benefits that Community Investment has on the bottom line. Asking fundamentally, do these activities not only improve the lives of residents and communities, but also provide a return on investment and save the business money?

This is the challenge we set out to answer. With our six housing association partners we used their data to model the impacts that their investments had on different parts of their business.

The project utilises data analytical methods not widely in use in our sector. It is a first step in unlocking the power of data that is collected day in, day out. There is significant potential for us to go further and use data driven insights to drive investment and improvements.

This research is a huge step forward. It demonstrates that successful community investment activities go beyond benefitting residents and improves the costs and demands on the core housing business. Given the financial pressures housing providers face, it puts community investment into the ‘must do’ rather than the ‘would like to do’ box.

It brings community investment together with other parts of the business, demonstrating how the skills and expertise of community investment professionals can benefit their colleagues in areas such as housing and asset management. It bridges the gap between different business areas, understanding the connectivity of different business areas and driving a more effective and efficient use of resources.

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Community Investment and the Bottom Line: Investigating associations between community investment and housing providers’ costs using advanced data science techniques

PUBLISHED: November 2016

AUTHORS: Jim Vine, Christina Knudsen and Phil Goddard

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