Council streamlines its operations to fast track housing applications

Smart projects: Housing system saves time and money as online applications rise

Wychavon District Council in Worcestershire has cut the average time taken to make housing applications and has increased the number of requests made online after implementing a system to simplify the process.

For the Wychavon Home Choice system, the project team cut the number of housing policies used by the council from eight to one. In the past, the number of policies had confused some of the people who applied for homes.

Because members of the public failed to understand the system, council officers often found themselves spending a long time explaining their housing decisions.

When the council used eight policies, people spent an average of 20 minutes completing an application for a new home. That fell to four minutes after the system based on a single housing policy went live.

The council said, "The project implementation was almost certainly the smoothest IT project Wychavon has delivered."

This was in part because the project team had set clear measures for success before starting work on the system.

From a usability perspective, people applying for social housing had to confirm that the system provided a good service, not just a better service. In addition, the seven housing associations that manage social housing on behalf of Wychavon had to buy-in to the system.

The project team also wanted financial benefits. It needed the number of vacant properties to fall and for newly vacant properties to be filled more quickly.

Since going live, the housing associations have reported improved income because their properties are empty for less time.

A key requirement of the council was for most of the applications for homes to switch from post and telephone to the internet. This was realised with 80% of applications using Wychavon Home Choice being made online.

The project team was made up of people from the IT and housing departments as part of the council's efforts to ensure the technology could deliver the business process.

The council looked at a relatively large number of IT applications for Wychavon Home Choice. "There was little comparative experience to draw on as few councils had implemented choice-based lettings systems," the council explained.

The council and the housing associations unanimously chose a hosted service from a Abritas, which included two applications: a housing register and the choice-based lettings application.

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