Tenant-incurred damage remains a challenging problem for social housing maintenance companies. Researchers at the Design Innovation Research Centre (DIRC) were recently commissioned by Broadspectrum, who have the maintenance contract for social housing in NSW, to identify the social, behavioural, emotional and other factors that contribute to this damage. As well as reducing maintenance costs, the aim of the project was to provide better services for tenants and for Broadspectrum’s client, the NSW Land and Housing Commission (LAHC).
The DIRC team delivered four workshops to Broadspectrum, LAHC and NSW Family and Community Services (FACS), another department with multiple social housing touchpoints. Using the nine-step Frame Creation approach developed at DIRC, the research team reframed the damage problem as a human issue, rather than a maintenance challenge. In doing so, they explored the vulnerable populations within social housing and the flow-on effects of those vulnerabilities, such as domestic violence and mental health issues. Replacing blame-laden perspectives and phrases like ‘reducing tenant-incurred damage’ with a more holistic project goal of creating healthy properties and cared-for tenancies was key to the project’s success.
After the workshops, the researchers delivered five prospective solutions to be trialled by the participating agencies. These included a property upkeep video for tenants; a mobile phone app to help tenants with house maintenance; a contractors-as-educators approach to upskill tenants on repair issues; a list of dos and don’ts around flushing refuse; and a mutual check-in service between tenants and call centre agents that could enable more authentic interactions.