Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Will Nixon's posts

  • Posted in: Career in housing..but which degree

    Will Nixon's post | 13/07/2012 4:18 pm

    From personal experience, most people I have worked with in housing has stumbled into the profession rather than it being a chosen path. That was certainly the case with me. I am therefore really heartened to hear that you have really enjoyed your work experience within a housing association and are looking at housing as a future career. I have met a colleague who has recently joined Aspire and they were also clear that a career in housing was what they wanted, they undertook a housing degree and are thoroughly enjoying what they are doing. I'm sure that the person would happily have a chat with you if that would help.
     
    From an employers' perspective certain job roles will ask for a housing degree or equivalent, so I don't think undertaking a geography degree would be a restrictive step in you wanting to work in housing, but obviously a housing degree is more focused. So I guess a key question for yourself is where do you see your future career? If you believe that this is in housing then a housing degree would appear to be the natural choice. When considering any degree there are obviously a range of factors that you will need to take into account in terms of the Universities that offer the courses, location of Universities, fees etc but I'm sure you are already considering these.
     
    I don't think that you would regret taking a housing degree and I certainly don't think you will regret choosing housing as a career. I wish you all the very best and hope that I am reading about your future successes in the very near future.

  • Posted in: What defines a 'living' room

    Will Nixon's post | 17/05/2012 6:17 pm

    The crux of the issue is whether the property is deemed to be "more extensive" than required and the criteria will be contained in the Landlord's own policies and procedures.

    In terms of the legislation relating to overcrowding and related definitions of room standards and space standards, this is contained in the Housing Act 1985 Part X - "Definition of Overcrowding". S 326 refers to space standards and states that " a room is available as sleeping accommodation if it is of a type normally used in the locality either as a living room or as a bedroom". However, this is not linked to the legislation in respect of Mutual Exchanges.

    In the Housing Act 1985 the grounds for refusal of a mutual exchange are contained in Schedule 3. The relevant ground in this instance relates to Ground 3. This states that refusal can be made where the property size is substantially larger than one of the exchange partners needs. The guideline states that the existence of one spare room would not make the property "more extensive" than required and it seems to be the practice of most landlords to allow an extra bedroom for this.Some tenancies, however, offer a contractual right to a mutual exchange and therefore additional refusal reasons can be relied upon.

    It is best to check the tenancy conditions and with the individual landlord concerned as to what their policy states in relation to this. Tenants may not exchange without the permission of their landlord but the landlord must give their decision in writing within 42 days of a request to exchange and provide details of any reasons for refusal.

    I would advise the customer to check the Landlord's Policy with regard to their criteria. It might be that they include the existence of two downstairs rooms in their definition of the additional room allowance.

  • Posted in: joint secure tenancy

    Will Nixon's post | 13/03/2012 12:21 pm

    The person I think has a pretty good understanding of the issues already, but I think really needs to seek a meeting with their landlord.

    The succession rule will apply to joint tenancy arrangements so there could be no further successions in the future. The under occupation benefit rules will also apply regardless of the succession assuming the occupants are of working age when they succeed to the tenancy.

    In respect of whether the landlord would ask them to move due to under occupancy, the decision to invest in redecorating the property etc I think it would be advisable to arrange to meet with the landlord to talk through the issues and hopefully the person will have a much clearer view after that meeting.

  • Posted in: Static rent arrears

    Will Nixon's post | 21/02/2012 1:48 pm

    That is a bit of a difficult one without knowing all of the details of a particular case. Customers can be in static arrears for a number of circumstances.
     
    Most static rent arrears are customers on full housing benefit, if the arrears are more than 4 weeks and they are claiming certain benefits the organisation can apply for a stoppage from their benefit towards the arrears.
     
    If the arrears are less than 4 weeks or the customer is not on a benefit that an organisation can get a stoppage from the customer.
     
    The problem comes when the customer does not engage, if the arrears are high enough for it to be appropriate to take recovery action then that avenue can be followed should all other attempts fail.
     
    For accounts with static balances that are not appropriate for possession proceedings, we can go to court for a monetary order, however there is a risk that you may pay out costs and not recover anything.
     
    For small amounts that are not cost effective to chase these could be considered for write off.
     
    Hope this helps

  • Posted in: Advice about change of use

    Will Nixon's post | 21/02/2012 1:46 pm

    I don't feel that we can be 100% sure on this as there aren't  sufficient details given here about the organisation, the use of the property, the likely rent which may all have an impact on the advice given.
     
    I am not sure what size of property it is and the number of rooms or type that are available to be let.  It may be that they will have to register with their Local Authority as a Home in Multiple Occupation.  If that is the case, then they could use licence agreements.
     
    If the property is classed as an HMO there are numerous regulations that go along with that.
     
    However, if the property is to be more like self contained flats then they should be granting Assured Shorthold Tenancies for either a fixed period or from month to month (periodic tenancy).
     
    Also, is this arrangement compatible with their charitable and company status?
     
    There is a helpful booklet produced by the CLG called 'Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies: A guide for landlords', but I think it would be in the organisations best interests if they received full legal advice about what they are proposing.

  • Posted in: Provsion of Affordable Housing Through Section 106 Agreements

    Will Nixon's post | 21/02/2012 1:44 pm

    S106's are not my area of expertise........but
     
    Off site provision for the affordable element is a perfectly reasonable option but would expect the need prior agreement from the local authority by way of the S106 agreement on Site A and a deed of variation on Site B.
     
    It may be that the distance between sites would cause an issue with the local authority it depends on local needs and whether the developments are related through settlements and or services.
     
    I am unsure they would necessarily be supportive of doubling the affordable element of Site B as this does not fit within the ethos of mixed communities and you also need to take account of the increased density of the affordable housing element with regard to management and impact on shared ownership sales.
     
    If you did wish to take it forward there may be opportunities to change the affordable tenure types such as shared equity.
     
    Hope this gives a steer.

  • Posted in: Should separate Communal areas have separate electricity meters?

    Will Nixon's post | 21/12/2011 12:32 pm

    The options open to you here are to ask the landlord to remove the storage heaters; to request installation of a separate meter; or to request apportionment of the charges on a more equitable basis. While its widely recognised that storage heaters maybe an inefficient and expensive means of heating a space, they serve a purpose in the communal area by preventing condensation build up, so removal of the heaters may lead to long term maintenance problems.

    Installing a separate meter will incur additional standing charges, so it will be important to understand whether the savings realised would offset the extra expense. Requesting fairer apportionment of the charges may be the best way forward. Ofgem has issued guidance (The resale of gas and electricity - guidance for resellers) which indicates that the reseller must have a methodology for apportionment and be prepared to explain how the shares have been calculated. It should be apparent through this process that your flat ought not to bear the cost of the storage heaters.

  • Posted in: Management Agency's of a Housing Association

    Will Nixon's post | 21/12/2011 12:19 pm

    In relation to this question, ultimately your legal relationship is with the landlord rather than with the agents, so the correct course of action in circumstances where you are unhappy with an agent is to approach the landlord directly. You should ask to see a breakdown of the service charge affecting your block and flat, as the landlord is obliged to provide this to you upon request. You can also have the service charges independently audited, although this would invariably incur some expense.

    Turning to the problems caused by the supermarket, there are two possible remedies here. In your tenancy agreement or lease, the landlord will have covenanted to provide you with "quiet enjoyment" of your home and will be in breach of this promise if their commercial tenant is causing a noise nuisance. You should also ask the Local Authority about any planning conditions associated with the supermarket's approved hours of operation and report your concerns to Environmental Health if you think there is a breach of conditions.

    Remember that your landlord is required to operate a complaints procedure that escalates through several stages to the Ombudsman and this is a cost effective way of pursuing any grievance in the first instance.

  • Posted in: Should separate Communal areas have separate electricity meters?

    Will Nixon's post | 21/12/2011 12:17 pm

    This post has been removed.

  • Posted in: CBL - medical information in assessment of banding

    Will Nixon's post | 18/10/2011 9:55 am

    The Borough Council should have a system whereby a change of circumstances can be notified and assessed which may alter the current banding.

    The first step is for the customer to approach the Borough Council who should be able to advise the customer of the next necessary steps.


  • Posted in: Youth, Looting, Flat Screen Tvs and the single room rate for under 35s

    Will Nixon's post | 30/09/2011 5:01 pm

    Sometimes civil unrest is stimulated by a combination of factors rather than a single issue. I don't think that the recent "riots" were caused because someone wanted a flat screen TV. Rather I suspect it was a manifestation of anger and frustration caused by the current environment.
     
    Unfortunately myself along with a number of others predicted the likelihood of civil unrest as soon
    as the economic fortunes of the Country became apparent. In terms of young people, we know from various research and statistics that they are some of the hardest hit by the current economic environment. In many instances people need hope and a sight of what a positive future may look like and I do fear that at present not enough young people can see a brighter future. The effect of the single room rate could add to this feeling. As a singular issue I wouldn't believe it would cause rioting, but as an added ingredient to the current environment then it possibly could.
     
    The question for us as a housing movement is what more we can do to provide positive opportunities. As a Country, it strikes me that we have just gone through a decade of milk and honey in respect of public expenditure and investment but we have failed to maximise the opportunities that this presented to increase employment and skills and the economic prosperity of key communities. As social landlords I am afraid that a good number of our customers will be most adversely affected by the austerity measures and I think it is up to us to help lead the response for the communities we serve.
     
    Three years ago, at the organisation where I work, we made the unusual step of acquiring a training company that specialises in providing training and employment opportunities particularly for young people who are leaving school with limited academic qualifications. We have re-orientated our business to try and create as many opportunities as we possibly can. We now employ 70 young apprentices (11% of our workforce) and have worked with an ever expanding network to create of companies to create over 350 apprenticeship opportunities. I know other organisations are doing some great work but are we all doing enough?

  • Posted in: Twitter and the riots

    Will Nixon's post | 23/08/2011 3:28 pm

    I would have expected that housing organisations would have been in regular liaison with the Police and other appropriate agencies who would be advising them regarding the risk of civil unrest and would no doubt be using a range of information gathering techniques, including social media, to determine those areas of risk.

  • Posted in: The impact of localism on sustainable communities

    Will Nixon's post | 18/08/2011 10:33 am

    The principles of localism in terms of devolving power closer to communities is clearly consistent with the development of sustainable communities.  However this assumes that community capacity is available to engage with these activities, in our experience this is very patchy and particularly in disadvantaged communities needs significant support to rebalance the relationships so that local people can have an effective voice. 

    This of course similarly relates to the 'Big Society' concept, however with the difficulties being experienced in the voluntary and community sector of maintaining their capacity, there are real issues of the degree to which they can support communities to respond to localism. 
     
    The Housing sector has a tradition of involving and working closely with its customers. Increasingly we see the need to direct more activity in working with communities in building capacity and we have established a programme of developing neighbourhood plans at Aspire, working closely with communities to shape priorities within their neighbourhoods based on improving social, economic and environmental outcomes.
     
    In terms of resources to support your research, the HCA website and their learning resources are very useful, similarly organisations such as Joseph Rowntree Foundation and other public think tanks produce some interesting and contrasting perspectives.  However given the newness of some of this policy agenda and its evolving nature there are some gaps at present.  Best wishes in your studies.

  • Posted in: Who and what are the Key Stakeholders in a Housing Assoc

    Will Nixon's post | 18/08/2011 10:27 am

    The term stakeholder can be very broad in respect of those people and organisations that have an interest in the housing association. Typically stakeholders are:
    Customers - including Leaseholders
    Company Members
    Funders
    Regulators such as TSA
    HCA
    Third sector partners
    Local Authorities, PCTs, LEPs
    MPs
    Suppliers etc

  • Posted in: Speculative applications

    Will Nixon's post | 05/08/2011 2:20 pm

    My advice is to ask yourself do you want to wait for an opportunity or try and create an opportunity? Whilst jobs in housing development maybe scarce I also think that when jobs do become available demand will be high.

    Obviously I don't know your the skill sets and experience you are offering but I would advise a proactive approach and to make contact with associations, developers and contractors....depending of course on what type of role you're is looking for. I'm not sure if you could offer services on a voluntary basis initially to get into an organisation and gain experience, but if you could then I also think that this would be worth stating.

    I know that the person may have to steel themselves in getting knock backs or no replies, but I honestly think nothing ventured nothing gained....so go for it.

  • Posted in: limit of who can bid

    Will Nixon's post | 22/07/2011 2:54 pm

    Any restrictions would have to be part of the advertising criteria in a CBL scheme.  A restriction which allows only certain applicants to apply would need to be part of a local lettings policy for the area. The local lettings policy would need to identify the reasons for varying the mainstream allocations policy and preventing other applicants in housing need from applying.

    Local lettings policies can be used to restore a balance, promote diversity in an area and to support sustainability but should only be of short duration until the objectives of the intervention have been met. Local connection criteria can also be applied where there is a Section 106 planning condition in place.

  • Posted in: Adaptation gone wrong...?

    Will Nixon's post | 22/07/2011 2:51 pm

    In Section 1 of the Building Regs Part M 1991 and 2004 it does state handrails should be provided to both sides of any ramps or stairs which are continuous, easy grip and slip resistant. There should also be upstands measuring 100mm on both sides to act as a kerb to ensure wheelchairs/pushchairs don't roll off. In some cases if a ramp is regraded so the slope is a gradual rise you wouldn't necessarily need a handrail.
     
    However, some organisations would always provide handrails to any installed ramp/slope as it is a vulnerable point of access and would therefore regard this as best practise.
     
    The provisions in the regulations "are expected to enable occupants with disabilities to cope better with reducing mobility and to "stay put" longer in their own homes."
     
    If there are no plans to install handrails, I would advise the customer to speak to their landlord and refer to the approved Building Regs Part M guidance published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

  • Posted in: How to become a Project Officer/Development Officer

    Will Nixon's post | 26/05/2011 6:12 pm

    I would propose that they look generally at familiarising themselves with the development environment, Project Management courses are not fundamental more a broad understanding of construction processes and the different people involved. In my experience those that have been successful in moving from admin to development have worked in development departments initially understanding processes and building confidence around construction.
     
    The number of people involved from legal services, construction professionals through to developers and contractors mean that the ability to build and maintain relationships is far more advantageous.

    The nature of development is complex and every project has its own set of individual problems meaning that you are constantly on a learning curve. S106 agreements are a small element of the development field and although a good starting point to understand the parties involved, the process of negotiation can be more based around broader business objectives.

  • Posted in: Training suggestions for a new housing officer

    Will Nixon's post | 26/05/2011 6:00 pm

    I'll start possibly a bit back to front.
     
    In relation to training I note that the poster says that they cannot fund any training right now, but it maybe worth them investigating to undertake an NVQ in Housing which enables them to study whilst working on the job and assesses both their compentcies on the job as well as their technical abilities. The reason I raise this is that often the NVQs are part or fully funded so wouldn't necessarily cost them money. It may also give a structure to the undoubted appetite that they have for learning.
     
    In terms of websites and links and keeping up to date with issues I would suggest linking to CIH, NHF, CLG and HCA as well as Inside Housing of course!!
     
    In terms of books and text these are often a personal choice and the topics are so wide ranging that I am going to suggest a slightly different tac.
     
    In relation to E&D the organisation the person works for should have an E&D policy which would be a good starting point.
     
    I think they also might find it beneficial to read some material that traces the history of social housing from its genisis to the current day. I remember reading a text book by Malpass & Murie which tracked housing policy to practice over a period of decades and it helped me understand the whole sector much better and much quicker.
     
    In terms of the other areas mention and in particular policy, I would suggest that rather than entering straight into a text book I would undertake some research via the Internet and delve into particular topic areas. There will also be lots of opportunities here to gather a variety of information as well differing views and opinions as well as the potential to purchase text books if desired.

  • Posted in: Scrutiny Panel of Tenant's - How its your's doing -

    Will Nixon's post | 05/05/2011 1:24 pm

    Your question raises some interesting questions with respect to the relationship between governance, co-regulation and specifically the position of tenants within this. 

    Our view has been that the role of scrutiny is to support the role of tenants (customers in our terms) in co-regulation through ensuring the national standards and local offers are maintained from a customer perspective.  It is therefore important for us that there is a constructive relationship with, but independence from the governance or executive arrangements of the organisation.

    To that end therefore we have focused on supporting building capacity of customers to undertake this role though training and support, but the election of members of the scrutiny function is in our arrangements a matter for our involved customers.  This is partly driven by the particular skills and interests of customers given the range of different opportunities we provide for them to be involved and their own arrangements in forming their panels and electing executive roles for these groups.

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