By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive, Places for People

In our fast-paced world, disruption is a word we see and hear all the time, but what does it really mean?

During my involvement in the “In conversation with disruptors” panel session at Housing2018, I focused on the Places for People customer-centric approach to product and service development. Naturally, our approach is driven by data and research and is focused on new innovations.  But it’s more than that.  It’s also based on customer insight.  We continually challenge ourselves to learn from our customers so that we can do things more effectively, often pioneering new ways of working.

Our approach to disruption is fuelled by data.  We analyse data from a range of sources to anticipate what customers want and value and then work to provide solutions tailored to their needs. We’re constantly searching for a cleverer way of doing things. 

Delivering sustainable communities

Disruption doesn’t just help our existing customers.  It can help us to unlock the housing market for those currently excluded from it. We all know we need more homes, but to deliver sustainable communities we need to focus just as strongly on quality as on quantity. We pride ourselves on practical placemaking and providing infrastructure to make places work and be attractive.

There is no “one size fits all” solution for people looking for a home. Harnessing, scrutinising and interpreting data is crucial to understanding – in detail – the needs of different customer groups, taking account of age, geography, financial situation and a host of other factors. That’s easy to say but the practicalities of analysing and interpreting data to change and tailor products and services, financing and sales and marketing is complex.

Our analysis tells us we must invest in homes of all tenures, including shared ownership and starter homes, if we are to develop the right solutions that give people the extra support they need to get onto the housing ladder, regardless of their age, financial circumstances or background.

Investing in new construction methods

At Places for People, these insights drive our wider strategy to increase the production of new homes. This has seen us invest in new construction methods by joining forces with specialist companies that share our vision to provide more housing choice and quality. In Swindon for example, we are working with Modularwise to build our first in-house modular homes. In Milton Keynes, we have partnered with Swedish sustainable housebuilders Trivselhus to deliver an £18m development of pioneering low-energy smart homes, which have been built using off-site construction and which have a whole range of smart technology service in each in collaboration with Apple.

We are bringing self and custom-build housing into the mainstream, making it a realistic option for prospective homeowners of all ages. This has already resulted in the launch of our new business - – and we have plans to further expand this offering this year with new partnerships.

The growth of Places for People Fund Manager PfP Capital means new sources of capital can be harnessed to deliver growth in markets where demand is high. PfP Capital has focused on supporting new investment in Build to Rent, the Private Rented Sector and much needed regeneration. Our recently announced Mid-Market Rent fund will build 1,020 new homes in an innovative collaboration with the Scottish Government.

Growing our products and services

Our business model focuses on understanding what people really need and the kind of places they want to live in, now and in the future. Whether we’re joining forces with a partner to provide more homes and choice, or developing a new product or service, we never lose sight of the constant need to change and grow our products and services.

Our vision is to create places that work for everyone. To do this, as a sector, we have to listen to people, understand their diverse needs and constantly evolve what we do and offer to stay relevant to them. To me, that’s disruption.

This blog was first featured in Inside Housing on 4 July 2018.

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