Tag Archives: pay to stay

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Calculating Pay to Stay type rents in Canada

Trevor Hampton, Head of Housing at Northgate Public Services 

Canada has linked household income to social housing rents since the 1970s, and along the way has negotiated a lot of the same problems that face the UK as it implements Pay to Stay.

Social housing providers in Canada are required to capture the same financial information as UK providers will via Pay to Stay. Under the Rent Geared to Income (RGI) scheme, housing providers obtain pay slips, income tax forms and benefits information from tenants in order to charge a social housing rent of around 30% of household income.

To make the scheme work, the housing provider’s IT system needs to calculate not just the RGI, but also create annual income check reminders, and determine eligibility for the scheme. The system not only calculates social rents but looks at any additional charges caused if tenants go beyond the income threshold. If tenants breach their income thresholds, their rents can be raised to ‘market levels’, which are calculated by the NPS’ housing platform.

In short, the system needs to be able to cope with greater complexity.

Over the last few years Northgate Public Services has worked closely with Ottawa Community Housing to implement Rent Geared to Income.

Says Michael Wilson, Director of Operational Effectiveness at Ottawa Community Housing:

“Raising the rent to ‘market levels’ can occur with a change in income and or a change in household composition. Typically, this could occur to ‘empty nesters’ who no longer qualify for the size home they previously had, or when people gain higher paid employment. “While we give them a grace period of time, if they don’t move and the grace period expires, the rental charge goes to the market level regardless of income.”

It’s necessary to check household incomes on annual basis to ensure tenants are paying the right rents. The IT platform generates the reminder notices and also helps create the calendar entry for tenant contact. It’s potentially a multi-stage process.

Firstly, the NPS IT platform automatically generates a letter letting tenants know it’s time for their annual review and requesting financial and household information. If necessary, this escalates into telephone calls, followed by employees physically visiting the property to get the required information. 

OCH start the process that they start five months in advance because ‘….to not have the information from tenants results in becoming ineligible and a loss of subsidy,” says Michael Wilson. “In challenging situations, it often needs a hands-on approach to go and talk directly with tenants, or, help them to get the required information.”

In Canada supplying financial information is mandatory, which is a key part of the scheme’s success. In practice tenants’ rents can be raised to several times what they were if the information isn’t supplied, creating a strong incentive to supply the information.

A key positive aspect to implementing RGI (and Pay to Stay) is the far greater understanding that housing providers gain about their tenants financial and living arrangements. It opens up a much greater opportunity for dialogue, and opportunities to help tenants ensure they are getting the right benefits, than would otherwise be possible. 

In preparation for Pay to Stay, NPS is taking what it has learned from its work in the Canadian market – and others such as Ireland and Australia where there are similar systems – and used it to inform its software solutions and also to offer a Pay to Stay service which will help gather the financial information.

Northgate Public Services provides housing solutions and services to the UK and international markets. NPS Housing, its flagship platform, is helping Canadian social housing providers calculate rents, and generate the customer contact schedule that enables income verification; NPS also provide welfare verification services to local authorities.  

This article was originally published in the September 2016 issue of Housing Technology.

Click here www.housing-technology.com to read the latest edition.


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The social housing provider of the future

Trevor Hampton, Director – Housing Solutions, Northgate Public Services and Tim Linsdell, ICT Director, The Hyde Group, took part in a Q&A on the shape of social housing in the future.

How do you see the current pressures on social housing impacting on providers over the next ten years? 

Trevor Hampton, Northgate Public Services, said:

There will be a lot of different impacts. There’s a clear trend away from pure social tenure management, and from life tenures, to instead using social housing as a support mechanism for people at specific points in their lives, particularly when they are under economic pressure.

Government policies are likely to continue reducing the amount of social housing. Housing providers will be raising their own capital by selling part of their stock, but the amount of social houses they can build as a result will be of a much smaller volume. Pay to Stay will also have an impact by asking people to subsidise their rent and further diminishing the concept of social housing as a ‘right for life’.

In terms of technology, when you start to look at the management of short term tenancies and more complicated rental calculations, you need much more data. You need better integrated, holistic systems and big data analytics, which can, for example look at who should be paying enhanced rents and who is over-staying their tenure. Additionally the pressure to keep IT costs down is likely to drive housing providers to buy cloud computing. 

Tenants will be demanding a much higher level of service as a result of changes to the makeup of a provider’s housing. Today, a typical social housing provider’s stock might still be 90% social, and it will fall to much less in some cases. Those residents paying market rents are likely to demand a very high level of service.  

How do you see customer and workforce interactions changing through the use of technology? 
Trevor Hampton, Northgate Public Services, said:

Interactions will be a lot more digital and online. People will fulfil their service requirements without human interaction via digital means. They will be able to pay their rents online, deal with problems without engaging in a series of phone calls. They’ll want to do this at all times of the day or night.

There will be a much more mobile social housing workforce. They will be going out and spending time in the properties and dealing with issues at the source. Meanwhile digital self-service will become more the norm, with people wanting to transact at a time of their choosing.

Tim Linsdell, The Hyde Group, said:

Government is driving a shift to ‘digital by default’, and with people increasingly comfortable with digital access, brought about by the consumer shift to on-line shopping and accessing services through social media, digital is part of the fabric of many people’s lives. They have an expectation that this channel is always available.

The current demographic reinforces this, with new generations having grown up in a digital world and having different expectations to older generations. We can already see the early adopters in the sector. Over the next few years there will be even more transition, as long as the right investments are made and our businesses change how our teams work together and with our residents to streamline interactions, increase effectiveness and improve standards.

The basic channels are already in place through call centres and increasingly online for things like repair logging, reporting of antisocial behaviour and such like. However this has the potential to stretch much further and beyond human interaction. The Internet of Things, for example, provides the opportunity for proactive detection of maintenance needs and service failures, which in turn will improve responsiveness, reduce observable service failures and drive up standards without driving up costs.

Is there any kind of customer/demographic shift we need to be aware of over the next ten years?
Trevor Hampton, Northgate Public Services, said:

The old tradition was 2.4 children, three bed properties with five people living there. Now we are seeing more single parents, one parent and one child in two bedrooms. Young people will be getting ten year tenures, so they’ll be moving on. Older people have lifetime tenures and will be able to stay, which will influence the demographics for the next 30 years or so.  

If left unchecked, what are the biggest IT problems facing social housing providers five/ten years from now? And in a perfect world, how would we fix them?

Trevor Hampton, Northgate Public Services, said:
Right now, there is a pressure on housing providers to react very, very quickly to all the government changes. There is a temptation for them to buy short term and niche solutions to immediate problems that they intend to integrate with their main IT solution over time, but rarely do. This creates more complexity. The data doesn't flow into the system and the quality of the information falls. It creates a barrier to using cloud computing in the future because it creates too complex an IT estate.

Providers need a longer term IT strategy, a roadmap on how they’re going to bring all this information and IT together. A key strategy is to give the IT director control of the budget and of the final decisions. If providers let individual departments make their own decisions then there is proliferation of disjointed IT systems. Build a strategic partnership with key IT suppliers, and definitely don't work at arms-length from them. 

Tim Linsdell, The Hyde Group, said:

As housing associations, we have already been investing in robust IT infrastructures that provide the scalability and security to operate safely in the digital world 24/7, and allow us to make effective use of the increasing number of cloud-based offerings. 

We increasingly provide seamless integration with our supply chain to reduce the cost to serve and remove unnecessary time delaying activities. More and more we are looking to software partners to deliver the systems we need, that have sufficient flexibility to meet the differing needs of housing associations working at different levels of scale and help us to keep one step ahead of the needs of our residents and customers.

The future is where customers can link seamlessly and quickly to service providers, removing the necessity for human intervention and the likelihood of failure. This will lead to improved customer experience and faster fulfilment of customer needs.

If similar developments in other sectors are mirrored, within 10 years we can expect a similar scale of technology in use as we currently see in media and utility companies. This will deliver increased financial efficiency that in turn will enable much larger scale development of homes and will help to keep social rents affordable.

Where we wish to differentiate ourselves from other sectors is our desire to achieve this effectiveness whilst maintaining a social heart for the residents that need our help.

This article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of Housing Technology

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Northgate Public Services launching first Pay to Stay service and software solutions

  • New software and service launching to manage Pay to Stay
  • NPS brings extensive experience of similar international schemes

Northgate Public Services (NPS) is launching both a new software solution and an associated income checking service to determine rent levels for Pay to Stay tenants.

These are based on NPS’ extensive experience in administering similar international social housing schemes.  

The new cloud based software service is being introduced to enable social housing providers to gather income details from their tenants and pass them on to the appropriate housing system.

As part of the associated service, NPS will contact tenants to obtain income details. Tenants can also submit the information online, in writing or over the phone to the NPS call centre. Once captured, income details will be validated and used to identify any liability for ‘top up’ rents under Pay to Stay.

The NPS Housing software solutions, which can already hold income data, will be extended to identify tenancies that are above the Pay to Stay limits, and to calculate appropriate rents based on government thresholds and tapers.

The service and solutions, which are expected to be the first of their kind on the market, will continue to evolve once the government publishes the imminent Pay to Stay regulations.

Sue Holloway, Director of Services Strategy at Northgate Public Services, said:

“We’re giving clients different options depending on their needs. Some will want a fully managed service that will do the legwork of communicating directly with customers, gathering financial information and identifying affected tenants. Others will be happy to deal with customer contact themselves but will still need software solutions designed to meet this new requirement, collect income details and integrate with the housing management solutions that manage the rent charges and accounts. 

“Our systems have a successful track record of delivering similar schemes internationally, and we’re using that experience to inform our work in the UK.”

Housing providers don’t need to be an existing NPS customer in order to make use of the income gathering software or the associated service. NPS Housing solutions are already helping social housing providers in Australia and Canada to capture the kind of income information required under Pay to Stay in order to calculate the appropriate rent level.

The company is also a trusted partner to many local authorities in the calculation of liability and entitlement utilising data similar to that required for Pay to Stay. Over half of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support in the UK is calculated and administered by NPS solutions, which also provides associated services to help clients to resource the processing of claims. Further, NPS provides solutions and services to assist with the Local Welfare Provision scheme, ensuring that support is accurately targeted using telephone, email, online, letters and face to face communication.

All English local authorities and ALMOs will have to start charging Pay to Stay rents in April 2017, while it’s voluntary for RSLs. 

Northgate Public Services is the largest provider of IT software to the social housing market in the UK.

If you would like to know more, please contact marketing@northgateps.com.


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Overview – NPS Housing

A flexible platform for a changing sector 

The result of over 25 years of experience and continuous innovation, NPS Housing is a flexible and scalable platform that helps providers make a difference in their communities. 

For organisations with 1,000 to over 100,000 homes, NPS Housing frees up vital resources to enable well-planned investment and exceptional customer service. 

Download the NPS Housing overview

  • Trusted by over 200 providers
  • Adaptable and scalable to match changing priorities
  • Self-service access across many devices
  • Available in the cloud or on-premise 
  • Seamless collaboration with partners, suppliers and customers
  • End to end mobile for high productivity

Trusted to deliver

At a time of huge change, we're helping over 200 providers to get the most from their assets, maximise income and engage their customers in new ways. We can put the information you need at your fingertips, wherever you are and whatever devices you use. 

Flexible by design NPS Housing is the most comprehensive and adaptable platform on the market, with endless opportunities to improve productivity. It enables providers to navigate changes like the Right to Buy and Pay to Stay with ease and stay focused on a great customer experience.

"We didn't just want a new IT system or software solutions. We needed the right technology to support our 'residents first' philosophy." 
Kerry Martin, Technical Project Manager, Lambeth Council Housing Management

360 degree view

The NPS Housing platform offers a complete view of all assets and customers, enabling a more streamlined approach to repairs, payments and enquiries. 

"Small things, like the ability to link direct to our payment portal, are saving a lot of time." 
Andy Dawson, ICT Application Manager, Magenta Living

Multi-channel, any device

With the widest range of self-service processes on the market and true end-to-end mobile options, NPS Housing can transform productivity.

"The self-service software covers a wide range of areas, meaning lots of options for engaging with us differently." 
Eamonn McGirr, Head of ICT Business Support, Wolverhampton Homes

Strategic roadmap

NPS Housing is built on proven, secure and stable technology and is continually evolving to meet the changing needs of providers and their customers. The first ever solution to offer mobile and self-service, NPS Housing has a strong history of innovation and enjoys continued investment.

"Because it's all online, it means we don't have staff typing up paper based housing applications. They can now engage with the client ratherthan just copy typing."
Diane Leaver, Systems Manager, Aberdeen City Council

Download the NPS Housing overview.

Find out more about how we've helped Magenta Living, Wolverhampton Homes and Aberdeen City Council.

Find out how NPS Housing can help with the  Pay to Stay scheme.