We reveal details of the winners of the 2011 UK Housing Awards
If there is one thing upon which the 675 guests who gathered at the UK Housing Awards last week could all agree, it’s that the past 12 months have been tough.
The awards, organised by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing and held at London’s Park Lane Hilton hotel, recognise excellence across the housing sector. This is the 15th year the awards have been held and the shortlisted schemes were as strong as ever.
In the face of severe public sector funding cuts and a lack of private sector finance, all the winners showed that housing providers have managed to find innovative ways to meet their tenants’ and residents’ needs.
Yes, times are tough, but as our winners and finalists prove, housing providers are up for the challenge.
Profiles of the winning schemes
Meeting residents’ needs and aspirations - Stockport Homes
Involving and empowering communities - Soha Housing
Making the best use of stock - Riverside
Meeting the needs of older people - St Mungo’s
Valuing equality and diversity - Salix Homes
Supporting social and economic inclusion - City South Manchester HT
Regenerating communities - Wulvern Housing
Creating safer communities - Villages HA
Delivering effective repairs and maintenance - Bromford Living
Delivering efficiency and value for money - Bromford Group
Excellence in housing and finance development - Rettie & Co
Oustanding achievement in housing in Scotland - Rettie & Co
Outstanding achievement in housing in Wales - RCT Homes
Outstanding achievement in housing in Northern Ireland - Fold Housing Association
Outstanding achievement in housing in England and the UK - Birmingham Council
Meeting residents’ needs and aspirations
Skills for life
Sponsored by H+H
Skills for life, a programme of free training and learning opportunities for Stockport Homes residents, was described by the judges as a ‘tenant-driven project with good evidence of both the number and breadth of people engaged’.
Members of the judging panel were particularly impressed with the positive outcomes of the programme. For example, courses focusing on providing residents with decision-making skills have equipped them with the confidence to scrutinize their arm’s-length management organisation landlord, which manages 11,919 homes in Greater Manchester.
The skills for life programme has an annual budget of £20,000, and provides training to help tenants improve the quality of their lives, manage their tenancies and to secure employment, voluntary work or higher education. There are also computer-related courses, as well sessions on confidence building and assertiveness, and ones that offer practical support to those involved in community groups.
Take-up has been strong. Between November 2009 and October 2010, for example, 339 residents completed 43 courses. A massive 99 per cent of them were satisfied with what they had gained from the experience, and customer representation at meetings held by the ALMO increased as a result.
Twenty customers have gained level 1 or 2 certificates in food safety awareness in catering, accredited by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health - basic qualifications needed for those looking to work in the catering industry.
Different educational backgrounds and learning styles are taken into account when courses are designed. Tenants themselves have requested courses including cooking for your family and tracing your family tree, both of which have been delivered. To provide revenue for such additional sessions, spaces have been sold to other social landlords in Stockport.
Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing - think smart recycle
Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, an arm’s-length management organisation which manages 23,912 homes in West Yorkshire, wanted to help tenants who could not afford to furnish their homes. It set up think smart recycle last July, a joint venture with the Single Homeless Accommodation Project.
The initiative provides customers with free furniture, much of which come from the ALMO’s own empty homes.
Your Homes Newcastle - volunteer policy
Volunteers including the 30,848-home ALMO’s employees, tenants, and wider community members offer their time to help support its young people’s services team and its sheltered housing activities team. The volunteers assist these teams by helping to develop tenants’ independent living skills, with a focus on addressing social isolation.
Aldwyck Housing Group - scheme enhancement projects
High levels of anti-social behaviour meant communication between neighbours in the Oysterfields area of St Albans and Hilltop Court area of Luton was stifled due to fear of repercussions or victimisation.
Aldwyck Housing Group, which has 10,700 homes, decided to engage with members of these communities through face-to-face consultation exercises, identifying and bringing about the changes required for the community to thrive.
RCT Homes - taking the lead
When it came to procurement, RCT Homes, Wales’s first community mutual - a landlord in which tenants play a central role - wanted its customers to have a say in more than just the colour of their kitchens.
Therefore, the 10,200-home organisation involves tenants at every stage of its procurement processes to deliver the Welsh housing quality standard across its properties.
Marches Housing Association - a little help goes a long way
Hundreds of elderly and vulnerable tenants have used Marches Housing Association’s new free handyperson service since it began in March last year.
Every tenant living in the housing association’s 2,800 homes can make two requests per year for small DIY and garden maintenance jobs that are not covered by the Herefordshire-based landlord’s main repairs and maintenance service.
Involving and empowering communities
Co-regulation - tenants in the driving seat model
Sponsored by Kier
Tenants of Oxfordshire-based Soha Housing went to Westminster, central London, to watch a government select committee in action to improve the way they conducted their own meetings.
The 42 most active tenants also received training from the Tenant Participation Advisory Service, Housemark and the Garnett Foundation, an organisation that specialises in leading behavioural change.
Tenants are actively involved in their 5,000-home landlord’s tenants’ forum, which holds it to account, its tenancy scrutiny group, which challenges it on the decision it makes, or they are signed up to be tenant inspectors, who monitor its performance.
Residents decide what they will look at and have access to all the information about Soha Housing they need, including confidential reports - for example, around Soha’s approach to affordable rents. However, all those involved are required to sign up to a code of conduct and confidentiality agreement, the ins and outs of which are covered in training sessions.
Soha Housing’s efforts to ensure residents are at the centre of its organisation were recognised when it was selected as one of the Tenant Service Authority’s 10 co-regulation champions earlier this year.
In June and July, the co-regulation champions took part in a series of seminars. Soha’s tenants have since offered ongoing mentoring to 120
of the people who attended to pass on the knowledge they have gained.
The judges were impressed with Soha Housing’s ‘really comprehensive approach to delivering power to residents through a variety of mechanisms’. ‘This has been a long process because Soha has been so thorough and has made sure they got it right,’ they added. ‘Residents have genuinely been placed in the driving seat.’
Helena Partnerships - customer excellence
In 2008, Helena Partnerships, based in St Helens, Merseyside, set itself the target of increasing the percentage of tenants who were ‘very satisfied’ with its services by 25 per cent by 2012 - taking the total to 46 per cent. After asking tenants what would make the organisation ‘excellent’ and acting on their suggestions, the 13,500-home housing association surpassed this target in 2010 with 49 per cent of tenants saying they are ‘very satisfied’.
Midland Heart - tenant involvement in social housing
‘The course gave me more insight into social housing and how it works,’ said one tenant of Birmingham-based association Midland Heart after attending a training course run by the organisation aimed at enabling resident involvement. Nearly 30 tenants have taken part in the courses since May 2010, and a further 14 have booked places on the 32,000-home landlord’s tenant estate inspectors course.
Your Homes Newcastle - you’ve got the power
The 30,848-home arm’s-length management organisation held two budget events for residents to decide how to spend £140,000, raised through efficiency savings. Ideas for community projects were presented to tenants who voted for their favourites. Successful initiatives included a football project and the improvement of communal areas in a sheltered housing scheme.
New Charter Housing Trust Group - Brushes estate
Brushes Estate Management Board was formed in 2003 by tenants and residents who felt drastic action was needed to improve their area. The Brushes estate was in low demand, and there were many voids. The EMB, which is now an independent registered company, introduced a robust lettings policy that led to a more settled community.
Linxs Consultancy Limited - Pilgrims Hatch community action team
The Pilgrims Hatch area of Essex suffered from anti-social behaviour including graffiti and criminal damage. The Brentwood community safety partnership worked with service providers and residents to develop a zero tolerance approach to ASB. Other initiatives include Chillax, a drop-in session for young people. Since their introduction ASB has fallen by a quarter.
Making the best use of stock
Own place scheme
Sponsored by Insight
‘This is a good example of an organisation investing in the local community, rather than just selling the properties off to a developer. They have ensured that those who move in buy in to the community,’ said the judges, summing up the ethos of 51,762-home Riverside Group’s own place scheme.
The initiative brings vacant properties that require significant investment back into use to help aspiring first-time buyers who could not otherwise afford to buy, get their first step onto the property ladder.
The homes, which require anything from minor improvements to structural works, are repaired before being sold at a discounted rate of 25 per cent of market value, averaging £45,000.
The homes are for owner-occupiers intending to live in the properties themselves, with buyers receiving a 25 per cent discount to live there for a minimum of five years. So property investors or developers need not apply.
In all cases, the housing association does not fully redecorate the property - part of the deal is that buyers have to put something in themselves.
There were five applicants for each of the 120 houses in Merseyside that were improved and sold in the first phase of the own place scheme. Riverside is now planning to repeat its success in Carlisle and Hull.
Your Homes Newcastle - disabled communities
Arm’s-length management organisation Your Homes Newcastle set up a housing adaptations panel to make best use of its 30,848 homes.
Representatives from the organisation’s adaptations service, investment delivery team, and a relocation officer, along with senior housing managers, occupational therapists and representatives from Newcastle Council’s adult services team meet every fortnight to review individuals’ needs and decide whether adaptation, including installing stair lifts and hand rails, is the most appropriate course of action.
Hull Council - tenant incentive downsizing scheme
Three years ago the council conducted a survey of its 27,000 tenancies to identify overcrowding and under-occupation. An impressive 93 per cent of customers took part. A year later it introduced a tenant incentive downsizing scheme to release larger family homes. By the end of May this year, 228 households had downsized.
Festival Housing - stepping stones
Wessex Place in Malvern, Worcestershire, used to be a sheltered housing scheme with 38 flats, demand for which was low. After a makeover, 8,000-home Festival Housing turned it into housing for single people and couples, let at affordable, intermediate rents. People who might have found it difficult to secure a social home or a home in the private rented sector now have somewhere to live.
Southern Housing Group - tackling unauthorised occupancy
After signing up to the Audit Commission’s national fraud initiative in 2010, 25,000-home Southern Housing Group identified the need to employ an unauthorised occupancy specialist to tackle the problem of sub-letting. In one year, the specialist received 27 case referrals, leading to the recovery of 12 homes. Across the group there were 81 investigations and 16 properties were recovered.
Birmingham Council - wise move
Birmingham Council’s aim was to free up under-occupied council homes. Unlike other schemes of this kind wise move does not offer cash as an incentive to move. Instead the council provides individual support for tenants. In the two years the scheme has been running more than 100 tenants have been helped to find more suitable homes, and 96 per cent say they are ‘very satisfied’ with the help.
Meeting the needs of older people
The Lodge scheme
Sponsored by Homes
The Lodge ‘turns homelessness provision on its head’, said the judges of the winner of this new category. The scheme, set up by homelessness organisation St Mungo’s and the City of London Corporation offers three star, hotel-style accommodation for the capital’s entrenched rough sleepers.
Opened in March last year, and located close to the City and Westminster in central London, The Lodge has been designed to address the needs of the older group of individuals with a long history of rough sleeping, and who traditionally would not go into chaotic environments, preferring to stay on the streets.
This group generally perceives hostels as intrusive, overwhelming and as places for young people. But The Lodge eschews many standard ways of doing things. Every process within the scheme originates from hotel-based practices, for example, all guests are given their own key to the front door and there are daily newspapers and fresh flowers in the reception area.
Nearly 50 individuals aged over 50 - including 35 members of the so-called ‘205 group’, the 205 rough sleepers who have been on the streets of London for the longest - have become guests of The Lodge.
Visiting external street outreach teams and the scheme’s own staff only provide informal support when approached by guests. This light-touch customer liaison model allows them to maintain their independence.
Thirty-two per cent of guests are over 60, 7 per cent are over 70. Some of them have been on the streets for 40 years - but they’ve warmed to the quiet, safe environment of The Lodge.
None of the guests are in rent arrears, eight have moved on to supported housing and three have moved on to independent accommodation.
RCT Homes Sheltered Housing - their future in our hands
When large scale voluntary transfer organisation RCT Homes formed in December 2007, it took on 10,200 homes, 740 of which were sheltered housing.
It made a commitment to improve the quality of the homes and to convert all outdated bedsits into sheltered housing. It consulted with tenants before the conversion took place.
Places for People - green spaces for people: supporting older people
The 62,034-home housing association secured £15.6 million in Lottery funding for this project, which provides accessible green space in residential areas.
It has regenerated more than 80 communities, transforming 40 hectares of underused space into community parks and gardens. Older residents have been instrumental in the development and design of the spaces around their homes.
Link Group - older people’s advice
Established in 2005 using Department for Work and Pensions partnership funding, the 6,600-home Scottish landlord’s original older people’s advice service project helped residents aged 60 and over to claim the benefits they were entitled to. In 2009, the Scottish Government added its support and enabled the service to target households irrespective of tenure.
South Northants Homes - retirement services improvement
When 2,900-home stock transfer organisation South Northants Homes formed in 2008 the sheltered housing and retirement bungalows it inherited were at a low level in the government’s Supporting People quality assessment framework.
In just over a year, it undertook a refurbishment programme coupled with staff training and community development activities. This resulted in an upgrade to level A last October.
The ExtraCare Charitable Trust - enriched opportunities programme
Working alongside Professor Dawn Brooker, formerly of Bradford University Dementia Group, ExtraCare has developed a programme to support older people with dementia. The trust, which operates 11 retirement villages and 18 smaller schemes with 3,200 residents across the midlands and the north of England, found the new approach to dementia care meant 50 per cent fewer people were likely to move into a care home. Plus hospital stays dropped by 42 per cent.
Valuing equality and diversity
Making differences count project
Sponsored by EMA
Salford-based Salix Homes launched its making differences count project last year after a customer profiling exercise showed that more than
50 per cent of the arm’s-length management organisation’s households had a member with a disability or long-term illness. It also found black and minority ethnic people as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers have far more concerns about their safety than official hate crime figures would indicate.
This made the 10,995-home landlord realise that these groups were under-represented within its customer involvement structures. So it set up a number of customer focus groups and acted on their suggestions.
For example, the disability focus group designed a protocol for the ALMO’s contractors to adhere to when working with customers with disabilities - three companies have gone on to adopt this set of guidelines nationally.
Residents also created a film called ‘Celebrating diversity’ to address stereotypes. Its premier, attended by more than 300 people, was held during Refugee Week.
As a result of Salix’s efforts, in 2010/11 there were 10 per cent more non-white British residents involved in the organisation than in the previous year. There was a similar increase in involvement among residents with disabilities.
Customer satisfaction has risen among BME tenants, of whom 88.5 per cent are now satisfied, up from 75.1 per cent in 2009. Among tenants with disabilities, satisfaction has grown by nearly 4 per cent to 86.5 per cent.
The judges said Salix Homes had ‘embedded a culture of positive change throughout the organisation’, and ‘can evidence that it is actually making a difference’.
Parkway Green Housing Trust - tailor-made service
Parkway Green launched its tailor-made service last year. Led by the organisation’s equality and diversity champions group, staff built up a profile of individuals and adapted the services they offer according to their needs.
Nine hundred examples of how the 5,800-home landlord has changed its working practices have been gathered so far.
Tower Hamlets Homes - improving socio-economic outcomes for Somali residents
Somali tenants living in Tower Hamlets, east London, are twice as likely to be in rent arrears as white British households.
Tower Hamlets Homes, which manages 22,000 homes, partnered with two local community organisations to find out why. The language barrier was identified as a problem so the landlord secured the help of a Somali-speaking volunteer one day a week. This has resulted in a £12,000 reduction in arrears.
South Tyneside Homes - equality and diversity in the workplace
To foster closer working relationships with community and voluntary groups and provide tailored services to its customers, more than a third of whom have a disability or impairment, this 18,000-home arm’s-length management organisation launched its single equality scheme in April last year, alongside which it ran a training programme for all its staff.
Cestria Community Housing Association - recognising diversity and valuing differences
At the beginning of last year, north east-based housing association Cestria began gathering information on its tenants and employees, so it could adjust its services towards their individual needs.
Staff received training about collecting this sensitive data. As a result, 95 per cent of employees say they believe equality and diversity is embedded in their team.
Bolton at Home - lunch and learn
The sheer size and complexity of equality and diversity can be daunting, so 18,000-home ALMO Bolton at Home decided to break it into bite-sized chunks in the form of monthly two-hour informal sessions. Around 30 staff and board members attend these lunchtime meetings aimed at fostering a better understanding of different cultures, religious beliefs and gender issues.
Supporting social and economic inclusion
City South Manchester Housing Trust
Employability and financial inclusion initiatives
Sponsored by Campbell Tickell
This award recognises the role social landlords play in improving their residents’ skills or providing advice and guidance.
When 4,500-home City South formed in 2008, it knew it would need to go far beyond repairs and rent collection to tackle the disproportionate levels of worklessness and financial exclusion among its tenants in the Moss Side, Hulme and Fallowfield areas of Manchester. So it launched numerous initiatives, starting with a fact-finding exercise, to profile its residents and set out priorities.
Three years later the facts speak for themselves. City South has helped more than 500 local residents into jobs and training. It’s seen more than 500 people join Manchester Credit Union, delivered campaigns to tackle loan sharks and fuel poverty, and set up The Works, a community-based, jobs, training and advice centre.
The centre incorporates training rooms, an IT suite which people can use to search for jobs and work on their CVs, and interview rooms. To date the centre has found jobs for 100 people.
Also, through the IMPACT partnership, a procurement consortium of social landlords in Manchester, City South has secured 214 apprenticeships with its decent homes contractors.
The judges were impressed by the housing association’s work, saying it showed, a ‘sophisticated and nuanced response to serious issues approached in a coherent and joined-up way’. They applauded the ‘really strong outcomes from a relatively small organisation’.
St Vincent’s Housing Association - one clear aim: being positive about work
Approximately 70 per cent of this north west-based landlord’s tenants are on benefits. The 3,000-home association’s positive futures project, launched in January, is a one-to-one service for those wanting to get back into work. An employment support officer visits tenants in their homes to assess their needs and provide CV and interview skills advice, along with information about benefits, training, employment and volunteering.
Southern Housing Group - computers in communities
Southern Housing Group decided to address digital exclusion - in particular exclusion from access to the internet - among its residents. So last year the 25,000-home landlord set about targeting residents who had not used mainstream technology, such as in libraries. It provides free IT training and piloted IT hubs in four sheltered schemes in London and the south east.
Tristar Homes - changing lives, creating communities
For the past two years, 10,000-home Tristar Homes’ personal advisors, funded by small Stockton-based charity Know How North East, have helped 258 people in finding jobs and receiving training.
The association, which is part of the Vela Group, has also been instrumental in creating the WorkSTEPs partnership, a consortium of eight housing providers and other partners which are pooling resources to help residents find work.
RCT Homes - making an impact on local employment and supporting communities to thrive
Originally set up by 10,200-home RCT’s charitable subsidiary to deliver a low-cost gardening service to vulnerable tenants, its scheme now provides work-based training for residents, among whom unemployment stands at 12 per cent.
City West Housing Trust - the skills programme and City West initiatives
In 2009, the year after 14,600-home City West Housing Trust formed, it spent £1 million refurbishing an old maintenance depot to create an operations centre for City West Works, its maintenance division. Here it offers three-week intensive health and safety courses to unemployed Salford residents taken on by the landlord’s contractors to work on its £235 million home improvements programme.
Sherborne reborn project
Sponsored by United House
When it was built in the 1970s, the 291-home Sherborne housing estate in Crewe was in demand, but by the time Wulvern Housing took ownership in 2003, the situation was dramatically different. There were high numbers of empty and difficult-to-let homes on the estate - voids ran at 5 per cent and were increasing every year.
Situated in one of the most deprived council wards in the country - in the lowest 5 per cent in terms of residents’ income - crime levels on the estate were escalating, there was high inter-generational unemployment, and residents had a negative collective identity with nearly a fifth saying they were keen to move. As a result there was a transient population, which further weakened the sense of community.
The £4.87 million Sherborne reborn regeneration scheme, in partnership with a number of local agencies including Cheshire East Council and Cheshire Constabulary, began in 2007, and it has given a new lease of life to the physical and social environment of the estate. Wulvern Housing has refurbished existing properties, built new homes, and remodeled the external environment.
One of the most important aims was to help residents feel a sense of pride in where they lived, and the landlord and its partners have achieved this - resident satisfaction has increased significantly. More than 95 per cent of residents say that the Sherborne estate is a good place to live, and 98 per cent say they want to stay there. All this has been achieved despite limited funding due to the economic downturn.
The judges said that the regeneration project had ‘made a genuine impact on communities’. And that Wulvern Housing had ‘adopted a holistic approach and achieved multi-agency buy-in’.
Glasgow Housing Association - better homes, better lives
When 86,000 homes were transferred to GHA in 2003, it promised it would improve them to the Scottish Housing Regulator’s quality standard within the next decade.
In its first eight years, GHA has focused on modernising the city’s housing stock, and in February this year, its total investment hit £1 billion with more than 68,000 homes being improved. The landlord has also built hundreds of new homes, and has created or supported more than 9,000 jobs.
Fabrick Housing Group - Discus project
Fabrick Housing Group, which manages 15,000 homes, and six partners, including York Housing Association, used the sites of 100 prefabricated ‘Discus’ bungalows that needed a significant upgrade to meet the decent homes standard, to build much needed homes and facilities. On these three plots of land now stand 60 new bungalows, a 41-apartment extra care scheme and 95 homes for affordable rent.
New Fylde Housing - Heyhouses regeneration scheme
Around 140 flats on the Heyhouses estate in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, built in the 1970s on unstable ground, were beyond repair. Enter 1,850-home New Fylde Housing, part of the Progress Group, with partners including construction company Southdale, which demolished them and built 116 new homes in their place. This cost £10 million, including £5.94 million from the Homes and Communities Agency.
Redcar and Cleveland Council - the Courts redevelopment
In 2003, the council unveiled a £30 million scheme to breathe new life into the rundown 1960s-built, 270-home Courts estate, which had problems with vandalism, drugs and anti-social behaviour.
Eight years later, things have changed. Three hundred new homes have been built, 33 per cent of which were delivered by Tees Valley Housing Group and are available for social rent.
Bolton at Home - I can make it happen
The aim of this one-year programme was to raise the aspirations of 170 young people aged 10 and 11 in north and east Bolton, and to introduce them to work, careers and university. Nearly 16 per cent of young people in the area are not in education employment or training, compared
with the Bolton average of 6.3 per cent. More than half of those who took part now want to go to college or university.
Creating safer communities
Villages Housing Association
Stockbridge Safer Community Initiative
Sponsored by Higgins
Turning around an estate identified by the Serious Organised Crime Agency as a ‘breeding ground for criminals’ was never going to be easy, but when the £25 million regeneration of 1960s-built Stockbridge Village estate in Knowsley, Liverpool, was announced in 2009, it was clear tackling its social problems had to go hand-in-hand with this.
So 3,000-home housing association Villages Housing, Knowsley Council, Merseyside Police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency got together in January 2010 to target criminals living on the estate, and to support community engagement and development.
Initially, residents - 40 per cent of whom were unemployed - had little faith that the partners would deliver any worthwhile changes, but just one year later, the estate had become a better, safer place to live. Crime dropped by 20 per cent and community confidence increased with more residents taking an active role in services.
So how did they do it? First, those people at the top of the partner organisations bought into what their teams were trying to achieve. Then came mo-ney. The partners gained funding from a number of sources and agencies, the majority of which was used to employ a team of police community support officers on the estate. They also dedicated their own staff and resources. In addition, a specialist community worker was employed for a year to help form a residents’ group, and a new community messaging scheme was piloted to provide up-to-date crime and community information.
The judges said Villages Housing Association and its partners had been ‘successful in a very challenging environment’, and had achieved ‘impressive demonstrable outcomes’.
Southend-on-Sea Council - sanctuary schemes (domestic abuse)
This scheme provides adaptations that enable households that have experienced domestic abuse to remain at home. The scheme keeps residents safe and builds their confidence by installing strengthened front door frames with bolts on the inside, fire-proofed letter boxes, external security lighting and strengthened windows. It has resulted in nearly 180 residents being able to stay in their homes after ending an abusive relationship.
Luton Council - anti-social behaviour becomes active social behaviour
When two low-rise blocks of flats in Luton - the Green and Wolfsburg Court - became anti-social behaviour hotspots, Luton Council needed to gain support from residents for things to improve. They designed a local area agreement based on solutions both the local authority and residents felt would work. These included regular visits from the police and the installation of new, secure entrance doors.
Riverside - your place
The 51,762-home landlord uses junior wardens who act as the eyes and ears of the community, cleaning up litter and graffiti, helping clear up fly-tipping, reporting dog fouling to the council, and regenerating green spaces. The project aims to create cleaner, greener and safer neighbourhoods. It is being replicated in the north west and midlands.
Glasgow Housing Association - Police project: making communities safer
GHA has seconded 15 uniformed police officers from Strathclyde Police to work directly with its front line staff to tackle anti-social behaviour. The groundbreaking pilot project gave the association operational control of the police officers. The officers worked with GHA’s neighbour relations team responding to residents’ concerns and complaints.
Bournville Village Trust - ‘You can make a difference’ safeguarding DVD
The DVD, developed by Bournville Village Trust in collaboration with Birmingham Council’s safeguarding unit and the police, aims to show landlords how to safeguard young and vulnerable people. It uses three case studies involving a housing officer, a gas surveyor and a general maintenance operative to demonstrate how they should report concerns about financial, physical and emotional abuse they have witnessed to their managers and other agencies.
Delivering effective repairs and maintenance
Homes that don’t break down service
Sponsored by Apollo Services
Among Bromford Living’s 26,000 residents, satisfaction with repairs had always been above 95 per cent, and satisfaction with adaptations and planned works above 90 per cent. But as part of the association’s ‘Bromford offer’ which runs across all services, it wanted to move away from telling customers what it thought they needed, and ask them what they wanted.
Tenants and those living in shared ownership properties told Bromford they wanted ‘homes that don’t break down’. Properties that were well enough maintained so they did not need the association’s input - but when they did need its services, for them to be simple and effective.
In response, Bromford focused on creating a service that reduced the need for responsive repairs.
This renewed focus ties in with the landlord’s reaction to the credit crunch. It needed to reduce the amount of money it was spending on repairs and maintenance by ensuring repairs were dealt with quickly, effectively and cost-efficiently.
Since April 2010 Bromford Living, which operates across 52 local authorities, has undertaken a full service restructure which revised employee contract terms and conditions. This has led to more clearly defined areas of responsibility, although it also resulted in a number of redundancies.
The landlord has undertaken several measures including re-procuring group-wide contracts to achieve simplified management and pricing terms, and training tradesmen to be multi-skilled enough to get the job done - now the proportion of jobs completed right first time is above 90 per cent.
Bromford Living has demonstrated that it has a ‘smorgasbord of ideas’, commented the judges. ‘It has a very wide range of initiatives that could be replicated by others,’ they added.
Harvest Housing Group - a four-way partnership
A strategic review in 2006 highlighted that 18,000-home Harvest Housing Group had several contractors delivering an inconsistent service. In response it established a repairs panel to oversee the procurement process. Panel members, including Harvest tenants, visited existing customers of shortlisted contractors to build up a better picture of the service they offered. They have since appointed two contractors to be part of a seven-year, £46 million partnership.
Parkway Green Housing Trust - repairs excellence project
Before Parkway Green’s repairs excellence project began in April 2010, 78 per cent of tenants in its 5,800 homes in south Manchester were happy with its repairs service - now 95 per cent are satisfied. This was achieved by making the service more customer-focused.
Tristar Homes - redefining the response repairs service
Residents on Stockton-based Tristar Homes’ property services customer group decided to simplifying the terminology its repairs service used so that everyone could understand how it works. The service’s complicated structure was replaced with two straightforward categories: emergencies and appointments, and jargon was translated into plain English.
Brent Housing Partnership - opti-time for BHP
Brent Housing Partnership’s traditional method of making repairs appointments created a high volume of missed visits and jobs that were incomplete and ‘lost’ in the system. In October 2010 the arm’s-length management organisation implemented Opti-time, an automated scheduling system, which offers tenants a fixed appointment time . The system may lead to 10 per cent savings on operatives’ cost -approximately £150,000.
Portsmouth Council - housing out of hours service
Residents living in Portsmouth Council’s 17,000 properties, were receiving a poorer service from their landlord outside office hours, generally when they needed it most. In May 2010 the council introduced a new out of hours phone line to report problems including repairs and anti-social behaviour. Office-based controllers receive and log the calls and co-ordinate a response.
Delivering efficiency and value for money
Not just surviving but thriving initiative
Sponsored by Apollo Services
At the end of 2008, as the extent of the recession unfolded, Bromford Group’s board realised that government cash for fully and partially public funded services would be at risk. It identified a list of potential threats to the housing association’s financial strength, including deflation leading to a reduction in rental income, bad debts among residents and reduced grant levels for new development.
During the same period, its housing stock grew by 65 per cent, after two medium-sized housing associations - Home Zone and Fosseway - joined the group. This, combined with the wider economic situation, meant that it was time to look for efficiencies within the newly expanded organisation.
The group launched a project called all together now, which included the adoption of a common housing management system across the whole organisation. It standardised best practice processes and rolled out an IT system for managing payments.
Bromford set out a value for money plan targeting savings in procurement, which together with a tendering exercise on energy suppliers, has already led to savings of £3 million. Focusing on necessary discretionary spending, achieved a year-on-year saving of £700,000, and staff numbers were reduced by 6 per cent.
By making decisions early on, involving as many people in these decisions as possible, and communicating them honestly, the group has thrived. The 26,000-home landlord is not yet halfway through its five-year value for money plan, but projects indicate it will exceed its £20 million target by a significant amount.
The judges commented on the association’s ‘good, strong focus on outcomes’. They said it was a ‘good example of using business transformation to identify opportunities in an integrated way’.
One Vision Housing - One Vision housing strategy
Shortly after 11,700-home stock transfer organisation One Vision Housing formed four years ago, storms damaged several of its high-rise blocks meaning the newly formed housing association quickly had a £7 million hole in its already stretched business plan. To move forward it had to come up with a stringent value for money strategy. It has since achieved efficiency savings of £29 million and management costs have been reduced by 19 per cent.
Ark Housing Consultancy - central housing investment consortium
The nine midlands-based housing associations that are members of CHIC, an asset management and materials procurement consortium, each spend approximately 40 per cent of their income on repairs and maintenance, rising to 50 per cent including development costs. They are working together towards planned savings of 35 per cent for each member.
Your Homes Newcastle - disabled adaptations
To meet the needs of its disabled and older tenants in the most effective and cost-efficient way, this arm’s-length management organisation, which manages 30,848 homes decided to make best use of properties that had already been adapted. It established a multi-agency panel, which meets fortnightly to review individuals’ needs and identify suitable homes. YHN saved £100,000 in 2010/11 by not adapting inappropriate or under-occupied properties.
Sandwell Homes - CCTV and concierge service centralisation
Sandwell Homes has centralised its CCTV monitoring services by reducing seven operational sites to one borough-wide control room from which it operates 150 cameras across 30 tower blocks. It is expected that operating from this centre will save the 29,000-home ALMO around £500,000 per year - a 25 per cent drop.
Riverside English Churches Housing Group - fit for the future
The group launched its organisation-wide change programme, fit for the future, last year. The new structure, designed to renew the organisation’s focus on tenants’ needs, has led to greater flexibility in the way the 52,000-home landlord configures its services. It has also enabled it to reduce its hourly rates, and overall costs, by £1 million.
Excellence in housing finance and development
Rettie & Co
Resonance at Moray Apartments, Edinburgh
Sponsored by Devonshires Solicitors
The judges of this extremely strong category backed this scheme because it is, quite simply, ‘groundbreaking’. Plus, it could ‘be replicated across the UK’.
Matthew Benson, director of property agency Rettie & Co, identified a gap in the housing market for a whole range of routes into homeownership, including mid-market rental levels, set between social and market rents.
Mr Benson landed on an idea that would both maximise value from the limited public money available, and drive new sources of private finance into affordable housing, which he cal-led the resonance model. In late 2008, he began working with investment bank Execution Noble and the Scottish Government to start delivering it.
The model involves housing associations and private investors coming together to deliver affordable housing, with the capital costs shared between them. The social landlord borrows against future income streams to fund the cost of development, while the investor funds land costs. The landlord then rents out the units at affordable rates and gets to keep a percentage of the properties in perpetuity. The private investor, meanwhile, benefits from any rise in capital value over the agreed period.
For the pilot project, Moray apartments in Edinburgh, Rettie & Co teamed up with housing association Dunedin Canmore Group, Edinburgh Council, the Scottish Government and Springfield Property Fund to deliver 15 homes.
It’s been so successful Rettie & Co plans to extend the pilot project to deliver another 70 homes on three different sites. It is also in the process of delivering 21 units for mid-market rent on four sites for social landlords. And plans don’t stop there, the firm is working on projects between public and private investors, which have the potential to deliver around 700 units.
Places for People - @home and Brooklands
@home offers a made-to-measure package of financial options to suit individuals’ circumstances. To protect people from falling into negative equity, it incorporates a buy-back guarantee for three years. Unlike other housing developments where a specific percentage of properties are earmarked for certain types of tenancies, tenures on a number of 62,034-home Places for People’s major schemes are not fixed, giving residents a range of options.
The Gateshead Housing Company - Kibblesworth regeneration
This 21,000-home arm’s-length management organisation is one of a number of partners supporting house builder Keelman Homes to deliver 148 new two, three and four-bedroom properties on the site of 94 defective three-bedroom houses. Twenty-three families with a mixture of tenures have already moved in. A further 48 homes are now ready for sale, which should not present any problems - there’s a waiting list of around 100 households.
Melville Housing - Cuiken Terrace
At Cuiken Terrace, Midlothian Council and 1,800-home Melville Housing Association came together to deliver 28 desperately needed new affordable homes in Penicuik. This town has a population of just 18,000, yet there are 2,900 names on the housing waiting list.
The £3.25 million project successfully came in under budget and with no delay, despite a winter severe enough to close nearby Edinburgh Airport.
North Lanarkshire Council - building for the future
Yet another standout Scottish project in this category, this entry saw a local authority establish its own £75 million house building programme during a time of financial austerity. It plans to deliver 500 affordable properties by 2015 - enough homes to meet 50 per cent of the shortfall of 1,000 affordable homes in North Lanarkshire.
City of Edinburgh Council - 21st century homes for Edinburgh
Edinburgh Council’s £150 million plan to redevelop three important sites with mixed tenure communities was approved in March 2009. It will deliver up to 1,300 homes over the next eight years. Planning permission in principle has been granted for all of the sites, and the first 215 homes are due to be completed this month.
Outstanding achievement in housing in Scotland
Rettie & Co
Resonance at Moray Apartments, Edinburgh
Supported by the Scottish Government
It is Rettie & Co again. Described by the judges as ‘an innovative model for development with little public subsidy’, property agency Rettie & Co’s work at Moray Apartments in Edinburgh also won the excellence in housing finance and development award.
The judging panel was particularly impressed with the way Rettie & Co managed to work with both social landlords and private investors on the scheme, and was able to demonstrate cost savings.
Members of the panel described the work done by the agency in Edinburgh as ‘highly transferrable’. The model the organisation has developed -labelled the ‘resonance’ by Rettie & Co - could be replicated by other landlords looking for ways to develop much needed homes in a financially constrained environment, they added.
Rettie & Co began working with investment bank Execution Noble and the Scottish Government on the development of resonance in 2008. The property agency also teamed up with housing association Dunedin Canmore Group, Edinburgh Council and Springﬁeld Property Fund to build the first 15 homes at Moray Apartments, for mid-market rent.
Resonance works by social landlords borrowing against future income streams to fund the cost of development, while the investor funds land costs. The housing association rents out the units at affordable rates and gets to keep a percentage of the units. The private investor gains from any rise in capital value over an agreed period.
Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association - preventing financial exclusion
Castle Rock Edinvar developed a strategy in 2009 to tackle financial exclusion among its 8,000 residents by visiting them in their homes to help them address money worries. The 5,600-home landlord continues to deliver traditional welfare and benefits services, but now it also provides income maximisation and money advice, home energy awareness training and tenancy sustainment services. As a result, tenancy turnover fell by 20 per cent in 2010/11.
Cunninghame Housing Association - more than just a landlord programme
Over the past two years North Ayrshire-based Cunninghame Housing Association has developed 61 paid jobs for unemployed residents and established its home energy advice team to address fuel poverty and financial inclusion problems. North Ayrshire has the highest unemployment levels in Scotland and nearly a quarter of its residents suffer from fuel poverty.
Glasgow Housing Association - better homes, better lives
In its eight years GHA’s focus has been on implementing Europe’s largest house modernisation programme. It has invested more than £1 billion in refurbishing almost 70,000 homes. Over the next two years, another £250 million will be invested in improving the remainder of its properties.
The landlord has also created or supported 9,000 jobs and offered hundreds of training places through initiatives like its community janitors scheme.
Glasgow Housing Association - police project: making communities safer
Glasgow Housing Association has gone a step further than working in partnership with Strathclyde Police; it has actually seconded 15 police officers to work directly within its own teams to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Link Group - older people’s advice service
An estimated £150 million of benefits are unclaimed by older social housing tenants every year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
The aim of Edinburgh-based Link Group’s older people’s advice service’s team is to address the barriers that prevent them accessing these benefits. It achieves this by visiting clients in their own homes and providing advice.
Outstanding achievement in housing in Wales
Supporting communities to thrive project
Supported by the Welsh Government
Judges praised Rhondda Cynon Taff-based RCT Homes as a stock transfer organisation with a ‘genuine community ethos’.
They said that its ‘grow enterprise Wales’ project, the main initiative of its winning ‘Supporting communities to thrive’ submission, ‘responds to current difficult economic times’.
This project ‘makes a statement about housing being more than just bricks and mortar’, they added.
GrEW was originally established by RCT Homes to provide a low-cost gardening service to vulnerable tenants, but then the community mutual organisation saw the potential for the project to offer work-based training opportunities to local people. More than a quarter of those living in the Rhondda Cynon Taff area of Wales are economically inactive and unemployment stands at 12 per cent.
When RCT Homes formed in 2007 it set out to involve tenants in every part of its business. This included offering support to residents where they needed it most, and through GrEW it is certainly delivering.
Services offered by the scheme - including cleaning communal areas and void properties, property maintenance and painting and decorating - are now delivered by trainees, volunteers and people on probation, with the support of paid employees and supervisors.
More than 390 trainees were helped through GrEW via the government-run future jobs fund. On top of this 29 probationers have accessed training and experience.
RCT provides a week-long induction to every new recruit to give them basic training in health and safety, money management and first aid. The organisation also offers trainees basic literacy and numeracy training as well as sessions on building motivation, initiative and ambition.
Cardiff Community Housing Association - creating safer communities
The De Bawdrip Road estate in Cardiff suffered from high levels of anti-social and criminal behaviour. Although police were called to the area on a daily basis, residents were generally too scared to complain.
At the start of 2009, 2,635-home Cardiff Community Housing Association started working to build trust within the community. This resulted in court action against ASB perpetrators and the eviction of the main offender in July 2010.
Cymdeithas Tai Clwyd, North Wales Housing, Cartrefi Conwy Partnership, Conwy Youth Homeless Outreach Service and the Bus Stop Project - going it alone
The Bus Stop Project, a young person’s information service in Conwy, identified that it did not have any information which provided practical advice on independent living, so it developed ‘going it alone’, a bilingual resource. Young people often lack awareness of housing options, rights and homelessness. This initiative aims to fill these gaps.
Melin Homes - fit for the future initiative
Torfaen-based Melin Homes was the first housing association in Wales to start a self-funded programme of installing solar photovoltaic panels on residents’ homes to take advantage of the UK government’s feed-in tariff. The organisation has invested more than £3 million in 3,000 units since 2009.
RCT Homes - their future in our hands
It’s RCT Homes again, but this time for its project evaluating the short, medium and long-term needs of its sheltered housing tenants. The organisation which owns 10,200 homes, 740 of which are sheltered housing, undertook an assessment of each scheme, identifying the physical condition and improvement work required.
Wales & West Housing Association - eco-friendly external refurbishment project
Wales & West Housing Association, which has more than 17,000 tenants across Wales, has made 82 homes in Buckley, north Wales, cheaper to heat and more eco-friendly. The £852,000 project, part-funded by the Welsh Government, used Welsh materials, expertise and labour wherever possible and reduced residents’ fuel costs by 83 per cent.
Outstanding achievement in housing in Northern Ireland
Fold Housing Association
Castle Erne scheme
Sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Housing 2012 Conference and Exhibition
Homelessness has become an increasing problem in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, in recent years as the number of jobs available in the area has reduced, and services, including temporary accommodation, have closed.
The need for more temporary housing is something homelessness organisations operating in the area are well aware of, but budget cuts mean they have been unable to cover the operational running costs of this kind of housing provision.
Although homelessness charities The Simon Community and the Salvation Army were interested in taking over the running of Castle Erne, a temporary housing unit in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, the money to do so was just not available - so Fold Housing Association decided to manage the scheme.
It has being doing this for more than a year, but in a unique way - the scheme is unmanned during evenings and weekends.
Financial constraints meant Fold had no alternative but to run Castle Erne without staff members permanently onsite, so the challenge was to develop a much-needed homelessness facility at extreme cost efficiency.
The answer was to work with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, with the 4,500-home housing association delivering a housing management service and 90,188-home NIHE providing ongoing floating support.
Together they have come up with an efficient model that can be replicated across the UK - Castle Erne is now fully occupied and there has been very little anti-social behaviour at the scheme.
The judges were very impressed with the way Fold has approached this scheme ‘at a time when there are growing concerns about homelessness in Northern Ireland’. ‘It reflects current challenges in relation to finance and dealing with challenging groups,’ they said.
Clanmil Housing Association - Ardglen Place, Belfast project
In 2003 Clanmil Housing Association purchased the site of an egg box factory in north Belfast that had been vacant for three decades. The unused land attracted anti-social behaviour, causing great concern for local residents.
Meanwhile, there was a great need for more social housing in the area, so Clanmil began developing 69 new homes on the site. Their new tenants moved in during October 2007.
Clanmil Housing Association - Weavershill scheme
It’s Clanmil Housing Association again, but with a different scheme. In April, the 2,432-home organisation finished the remodelling of an apartment block at Weavershill, a housing development in North Belfast, to make it suitable to be used as supported housing for people with mental health problems. The resulting scheme comprises 10 two-bedroom apartments and is jointly managed with specialist organisation Belfast Trust.
Trinity Housing - Ralph’s Close project
Named after psychiatric nurse Mary Ralph, Ralph’s Close provides long-term care and support in a homely environment for adults with varying degrees of learning difficulties.
The scheme, which is run by Trinity Housing in partnership with Western Health and Social Care Trust, replaced a 1970s-built facility called Mourne House in Londonderry, where the late Ms Ralph worked.
The previous scheme no longer met the needs of residents. The new development at Stradreagh, however, has been designed specifically for its inhabitants.
Outstanding achievement in housing in England and the UK
Birmingham Council, Homes and Neighbourhoods Directorate
Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust Scheme
England: sponsored by Inside Housing
UK: sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Housing
Birmingham Council’s Homes and Neighbourhoods Directorate has found a way to continue developing new affordable family homes despite tough economic conditions.
In January 2009 it formed the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust, which has delivered hundreds of homes while simultaneously limiting the financial risk involved in doing so.
The trust, which has its own dedicated team of council officers, currently has 700 homes either completed or onsite. All are built on the local authority’s land, and are of mixed tenure, with some properties available to buy and others for rent. Around 150 of the homes built have been rented to the council’s own tenants.
More than £16.7 million in Homes and Communities Agency funding was secured for the developments under the local authority new build and public land initiative programmes.
Upfront costs were minimised by entering into pioneering contracts with developers, and cross-subsidy from homes for sale helped make the developments financially viable.
Not only did Birmingham Council’s initiative win the outstanding achievement in housing in England award, it also won the overall outstanding achievement in the UK award.
‘It responds to current challenges in that development is badly needed and this is a model that could be replicated by others,’ summed up the judges.
In fact, the Birmingham’s model has already been adopted by the HCA and is being applied to other developments on publicly owned land.
Bromford Group - supporting social and economic inclusion
Bromford Group is working with residents living in its supported housing schemes, including at New Century Court in Oswestry where it is focusing on teaching day-to-day skills, such as how to iron a shirt in preparation for an interview. To help residents and members of the wider community access employment it is running work clubs at a variety of venues.
City West Housing Trust - the skills programme
City West Housing Trust, which owns and manages around 14,600 homes in West Salford, has set up three social enterprise schemes to help unskilled or unemployed residents. Handy van offers home maintenance, garden guerrillas is a gardening service, and there is a decorating service called pirate painters.
Family Mosaic - get connected inter-generational project
Get connected is a digital inclusion initiative in which young people help train and support elderly, unemployed and vulnerable residents to use computers.
Following completion of an initial eight-week course, each resident learning these vital IT skills is paired with a young volunteer or digital mentor who offers them one-to-one tuition.
The scheme was originally designed to address lack of intergenerational contact between the 23,000-home landlord’s younger and older residents.
St Mungo’s - The Lodge scheme (winner of meeting the needs of older people award)
The Lodge offers some of London’s most entrenched rough sleepers ‘hotel-style’ accommodation. The project developed by St Mungo’s and the City of London Corporation is designed to address the needs of the older group of individuals who would not normally use hostels because they find them too chaotic.
Your Homes Newcastle - you’ve got the power project
With £140,000 to spend, Your Homes Newcastle tenants could choose which community projects they wanted to invest in. The arm’s-length management organisation held two events in which residents watched presentations from members of staff, and voted for the schemes they wanted to come to fruition. More than 280 tenants voted. Those who could not attend the events voted online.