housIT: extracts from the press

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housIT is a virtual community of people interested or involved in housing to share knowledge and skills about best practice and innovation relating to housing and IT.

From The Press archive - a selection of articles previously featured in our 'From the Press' section.

Feature title Publication

past snippITs

May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000

November 2000
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September 2000

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May 2001 snippITs

Cambridge Council says it's the first to use new satellite technology to direct staff to emergency housing jobs. Automated vehicle location system tracking devices (yes there must be a shorter name) have been fitted to 80 council vehicles, complete with panic buttons so lone workers can be pinpointed if they're in trouble. Or so says Housing Today...

...which also reports on a 'virtual carer' being developed to help older people maintain their independence. Age Concern are working on the idea with Surrey and Guildford councils and local health bodies. Mine's a virtual tea, no milk, thanks.

And the CIH's Housing Monthly reports that the Whyte family, tenants of Warden HA, are the first to be monitored to quantify the cost effectiveness and comfort of an INTEGER house. It's green and intelligent: the house, that is...

As are our old friends and funders the Housing Corporation, who've newly launched an online register of social landlords. Check your own entry.

April 2001 snippITs

Some months there's a flood of IT-related items in the press....some, none at all...but you might be interested in this site, featured in The Guardian's round-up of good websites recently (April 2001). It's www.improve-line.com, it claims to know contractors near you for any form of home improvement, and it seems to work. Plus if you use it and give feedback, then the next user will be even better informed.

March 2001 snippITs

'Wired up communities' is a £10m programme from the Department of Education and Employment, installing computers in homes in six deprived areas - Newham, east Manchester, Blackburn, parts of Suffolk and Cumbria and Brampton upon Dearne - in a bid to bridge what Micheal Wills, Learning and technology minister, called 'the digital divide'. OK so he didn't coin the phrase :) This from Inside Housing...

...as is the report that Cabinet Office minister Ian McCartney has been taking a high IT profile. He's welcomed the report on Warwick Council's Kenilworth Connection, a one-stop shop with extended opening hours. And he's been up to Manchester to launch eastserve.com, Manchester's 24-hour interactive internet service, through which tenants can notify repairs, and check their rent account and housing benefit. And they say there's no election coming.

Digital satellite broadcasters are targetting social housing tenants, with BSkyB in partnership with Enfield and Newham councils in London to digitally rewire 31,000 homes, and ONdigital hooking up with Derby and Salford for another 14,000. 'Councils need to look at the issue,' says BSkyB, 'because it's important that all the benefits of digital television are available to all sections of the community.' Hm. Report from Housing Today

Government Computing reports that Bolton Council used 330 cable-free handsets to survey 11- and 12-year-olds about their town. The portable system from IML takes less than half an hour to set up...

...and that Bracknell Forest Council is the first to develop a 'citizens' portal' where Net-enabled residents can pay Council tax and chase planning applications. More facilities are to follow. Supplier Novell claims that each online transaction costs 10p to process, against £7 for a phone call and £60 for a face-to-face meeting.

Inside Housing reports on the launch of C4H - a website that's a tool to enable local authorities to assess the future of their stock...

...and that www.access-funds.co.uk provides a single point for non-profit organisations to find information on funding opportunities. Check it out and let us know :)

The CIH'S monthly Housing reports on other computer/online facilities now available...the National Housign federation (020 7843 2311) have a new Estimator CD-rom to explore the likely impact of rent reform...

...the CIH itself (024 7685 1798) has launced a new weekly e-zine...

...and Bradford Council claims a first in enabling tenants to pay rent by direct debit over the Net...

David Blunkett checked out Drapers City foyer in Bethnal Green to publicise a new online centre, one of 1200 the government's funding, says Housing Today...

...while Inside Housing featured Hanover Group's conference about older people and technology.

January 2001 snippITs

New Year's Housing from the CIH mentions the recent claim that four out of ten people could be living in 'smart homes' in ten years. That's homes where remote technology could control everything from water temperature to burglar alarms. But the building industry aren't keen to promote the technology, according to the research by the Consumers Association for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. More details online at the JRF website.

Meanwhile Housing Today reports that West Dunbartonshire council made irrecoverable overpayments of more than £500,000 in housing benefits in 1999. 'There is a period of time during 1999,' says a spokeswoman, 'when, because of teething problems with a new computer system, we can no longer legally enforce people to repay overpayments.' Agh, thank goodness for new technology,eh?

Meanwhile we've only just caught up with the National Housing Federation's excellent online 'Info Shop'. In among copies of past policy briefings and free pamphlets, you'll find a (printable) recent fact sheet about Information Exclusion and Registered Social Landlords that'll be useful to rsl's and local authorities alike. Choose 'Info Shop' from the main website.

And here's something we spotted on the way to our exotic winter sun holiday in the Air France magazine...www.immostreet.com...a joint French/Swiss/Spanish/German 'real estate' site for upmarket rental and buying...if only an exchange from Leeds to Lausanne were that easy (readers with little French are directed to the Swiss bit of the site which kindly operates in English)...

December 2000 snippITs

Swan Housing Group has launched a new project, swan-tenants.com, which gives computer and internet training to tenants. Those who complete the course get a free set-top box and can then order repairs and pay and check their rent account online. From Housing Today. Check out our article on digital television for social housing.

Phone 020 8557 2017 for a free copy of the conclusions from the conference on Bridging the digital divide run by London and Quadrant Housing Trust and Knowsley Council. Or check out what David Wilcox had to say here back in July 2000.

L & Q were the rsl winner of the 'best communication with the internet' award at the Communications in Housing Awards 2000. Notting Hill Housing Trust were highly commended. Chester City Council won the L/A section for their innovative intranet. Oddly enough, we couldn't find the results on the Net, only in Housing Today. :)

The situation remains confused about handing over data about tenants in the case of a stock transfer. After a two-year investigation the Data Protection Commission have said that Bath and North East Somerset council offended data protection principles because tenants weren't asked to consent to the handover of information until after the transfer. The council's solicitor says that handing over the data was 'in the best interest of all concerned'. This will be an issue for the new Copmmunity Housing Task Force, no doubt. Report from Housing Today.

November 2000 snippITs

The Housing Corporation, in the shape of Director of Investment Neil Hadden, has been defending itself from the unexpected flak it got for its pioneering online bidding process reported in earlier snippITs. Undeterred, the Corporation is now open for online bids for the Safer Communities Supported Housing Fund. Report from Housing Today.

Housing brings news of RSL worries about online reporting. From April 2001 in-depth Housing Quality Indicators (HQIs) for each scheme that they develop will have to be recorded on a website run by the Building Research Establishment. The move is being introduced to encourage RSLs to adopt the Egan agenda.

The Local Government Association has published a guide, OK COMPUTER, about how technology such as digital TV and smart cards will revolutionise council services. Contact IDEA on 020 7296 6600 or check out their website.

Webster's tells us that terrarius liber is 'a book belonging or pertaining to land or landed estates'. Now Blackburn and Darwen Council are the first to implement the electronic version of Terrarius from Logotech and GGP Systems. The system can be used to map locations, view sites on screen and gather information about properties, all linked to electonic maps. News from Inside Housing...

...who also report that Frogletcom, an online lettings service for private landlords, has signed a deal with Croydon Council. A Croydon-branded version of the Froglet site aims to provide home hunters in the borough with a wider range of choice. The site also offers private landlords advice and support.

Meanwhile Medway Council has signed a seven-year contract with Saffron Computer Services, part of the Comino Group. The deal involves joint delivery of internal revenue and benefits administration services, with Saffron running a call-centre for the Council.

October 2000 snippITs

West Hampstead HA has lost £9.2m Housing Corporation development funding because of major problems arising from a newly implemented computer system 'which has undermined existing management systems', says Chief Executive Anna Bowman in Inside Housing 13.10.00.

Eat your heart out eBay. 523 of the 800 or so eligible housing associations have already tried out the Housing Corporation's new on-line bidding system...

...while there's more innovative IT here, where six black-led housing associations have joined forces to explore improving housing management through innovative IT, with the benefit of a Housing Corporation IGP grant. Both reports from Housing Today 12.10.00

The Hull Goodwin Resource Centre, a residents' group, has installed web-cams for community e-surveillance. The system is quicker and cheaper to install than conventional CCTV, says September's Government Computing.

But hey, man, for the ultimate in alternative IT, try the 'data cloud'. No, it's not something Tory shadow ministers used to smoke, it's an alternative potential Internet that could break down the digital divide. Read more in The Guardian, or remind yourself what we had to say about the digital divide.

September 2000 snippITs

Housing Today reports (21.9.00) that Glasgow Council has become the first council to have a link to its own website on the portal page of new television internet service - the local government area of ONnet. Glasgow signed a deal with ONdigital last December to replace the analogue tv service in 65,000 homes with digital...take a look at our article on the topic of digital tv...

Meanwhile we see in Inside Housing (15.9.00) that the Foyer Federation is creating 50 computer centres in foyers, giving online access and support to young homeless people. It's part of the UK Online programme to develop 6,000 centres to help bridge the 'Digital Divide'. Check out what David Wilcox wrote for housIT about this.

Croydon Council has teamed up with online letting service froglet.com. They give advice to landlords on letting and managing properties and provide tenants with a wide range of rented accommodation. Source: Inside Housing 22.9.00