Tuesday, December 6, 2016

MyHousing Online - public housing goes digital

It’s taken a while but FACS Housing is catching up with the 21st century and are getting more of their services and forms online. At the end of October they launched MyHousing, a ‘suite of online services’ that mean people can now go online 24/7 to:
  • apply for housing 
  • manage their accounts (rent and utilities) 
  • pay accounts 
  • and request repairs (lodge non urgent maintenance requests). 

You enter MyHousing via the front page of FACS Housing’s website. The ‘look’ of it is reasonably familiar, with the main interface a little bit reminiscent of the myGov portal - though transitions through to specific pages from the initial interface are a little clunky. The ‘Accounts and Information’ pages follow the same design style and logic as Centrelink’s online self service portal. Importantly – because just over 40% of public housing tenants reported no internet connection in their homes in the 2011 Census (ABS 2011) – MyHousing is generally mobile friendly.

Since MyHousing launched on the 31st of October it has had a fair bit of traffic. Over 1000 online housing applications have been submitted, and another 500 are ‘in progress’. Just over 400 clients have registered to access and manage their accounts. Most (80% of visitors) have been looking at ‘Accounts and Information’ to view their rent ledger or utilities accounts, but many (50% of visitors) are also taking the opportunity to update their current contact details. Some have already made use of the ‘e-payments’ facility where you can make rent, water and other payments online with BPAY and internet payments.

Of course you can still do all of these things in real life at a local office. Payment of rent and utilities or other debts can still be done at Service NSW offices. And maintenance requests, general enquiries and - since the middle of this year - applications for housing can all be done over the phone.

FACS reports that the feedback they’ve received from users about MyHousing has been good. Users have told them the online application form is easy to use and that they’ve had a positive experience on the Accounts Information page. The TU has also heard from tenants that the accounts information, and in particular the rent ledger available online, is much clearer than the paper version tenants generally receive (you can actually tell if you are in credit or arrears - which is useful!).

And there is more to come. Eventually all Housing forms will go online, and additional online ‘services’ will be added. FACS is also looking into developing a mobile ‘app’ with a range of functions that could include things like sending reminders or alerts, providing updates on the progress of applications, linking applicants to Link2Home and temporary accommodation, updating info, and repairs requests.

We’re glad to see that FACS is moving in this direction – and that the team behind the online upgrades seem genuinely committed to design that is ‘fit for purpose’ and makes life easier for people engaging with FACS Housing’s various processes. They’ve reached out and have been engaging with community groups from the sector, and have also said they are keen to hear feedback from tenants – current and future.

If you’re a tenant in social housing or have recently applied for housing (or you’re an advocate or worker and have assisted someone who has used MyHousing) we’d love to hear what you think …

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