Blog 20th February 2018

Feb 20th 2018, 13:02

Blog 20th February 2018

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Arklet Housing Association, Impact Housing Association, Riverside Housing Association, Homes England, Carlisle Tenants’ & Residents’ Association, Resident Engagement, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Copeland Borough Council, Eden District Council and Service Charges in social housing.

Last week I met with officers and tenants of Arklet Housing Association at Giffnock in East Renfrewshire. Arklet Housing Association is a registered charity that owns and manages homes in East Renfrewshire, the south of Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, many of which are ‘amenity’ homes providing for older people or people with specific support needs.

In August 2017 Arklet’s board completed a strategic options review exercise and decided that the best way forward for Arklet and its tenants would be for Arklet to enter into a formal partnership with another housing association, primarily due to financial and rent affordability concerns. Arklet advertised its intention to seek a partner to the housing association sector in October 2017, and with input from tenants, drew up a brief setting out the benefits that it hoped to achieve from partnership. Several associations expressed an interest in entering into a partnership with Arklet, and proposals were received in December 2017.

A Partnership Selection Panel, with a five-person membership, has been set up by the board with delegated authority to recommend a shortlist of prospective partner associations, based on submissions received. Two of these are tenants: a tenant board member and the Chair of the Tenants’ Forum.

Following consultation with the Tenants’ Forum, Arklet’s board has agreed a Tenant Communications Strategy specifically for the partnership process. It anticipates the early appointment of an Independent Tenants’ Advisor.

After the selection of a preferred partner it is planned to develop a business case for the partnership, in consultation with tenants and other stakeholders. This will be followed by two rounds of consultation with tenants that are expected to take place between July and September 2018. This will be followed by a tenant ballot that is expected to take place during November 2018.

In recent blogs and newsletters, I have written about the proposed takeover of Impact Housing Association by the Riverside Group. Until 2015, I was Chair of Impact and I continue to be a shareholding member.

There is a similarity between Arklet Housing Association and Impact Housing Association in that both are seeking to form a ‘partnership’ with another housing association. However, there is a contrast between the process being followed at Arklet that is open and transparent and involves tenants fully and the process that is being followed at Impact that appears to be shrouded in secrecy and to exclude tenants. For example, Impact:

  • Has not established a steering group that involves tenants.
  • Does not intend to appoint an Independent Tenants’ Advisor.
  • Does not have a Tenant Communications Strategy for the ‘takeover’
  • Does not intend to consult tenants on the business case.
  • Does not intend to consult tenants on the proposed ‘takeover’.
  • Does not intend to hold a ballot.

Carlisle Tenants’ & Residents’ Federation publish a newsletter entitled ‘Community Voice Carlisle’ that reported on the ‘takeover’ of Impact Housing Association last week under the heading ‘Worried Tenants kept in the dark’. Tenants have contacted me to express their concern, including one who wrote that:

“Mark Costello (Chair of Impact) (said) that all tenants would be consulted with about the partnership, but nobody has got in touch with tenants other than a letter stating that Riverside is the preferred partner.”

In my view, Impact Housing Association should re-assess its approach to resident engagement.

As I have mentioned before, Homes England assure me that the takeover cannot go ahead without the approval of the shareholding members. Impact has had a long-standing policy of encouraging tenants and others in the local community to become shareholding members. It only costs £1 and should ensure a say in the takeover. I would advise tenants and anyone else with an interest in Impact to apply to join. To view or download an application form, please click HERE

Last week I also attended the Heritage Lottery Fund (Northwest) consultation meeting on their Strategic Funding Framework 2019-2024. At the meeting there appeared to be consensus that heritage is important in creating a sense of ‘place’ that is important in ‘well-being’ and economic development. This was certainly the view that we took at Copeland Borough Council when I was Finance Director and then Strategic Director in the 1990s during which time we improved the historic harbour and town centre of Whitehaven and built the Beacon Heritage Centre.

The discussion on ‘outcomes’ struck a chord with work that I have done with housing associations in ‘shaping places’. Many housing associations have found that building new homes and improving homes to the ‘decent homes standard’ are only part of what is required to promote ‘well-being’ in a community and have therefore engaged with ‘place shaping’ – working with other agencies to promote ‘well-being’. Similarly, heritage projects such as preserving historic buildings, archaeological investigations and heritage projects could also be activities that are part of broader initiatives involving partnership with other agencies.

During the discussion on ‘priorities for people’ I was surprised that no one mentioned the potential of using the Internet and social networking. When I raised this, it became apparent that the organisations represented in the group made very little use of the Internet or social networking. I would have thought that the scope for the Heritage Lottery Fund and heritage organisations generally to use the Internet and social media was considerable, especially in engaging with people in younger age groups.

Last month I responded to Eden District Council’s consultation on their budget for 2018/19. Following the Council’s agreement of the budget I have received a reply from Clive Howey, their Director of Finance. To view or download the correspondence, please click one of the links below:

Our seminar ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ that will be held in London on 27th February 2018 is proving very popular and we only have a handful of places left. This is a very useful introduction and overview of this very important subject. For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

Our next seminars are on:

  • All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing
  • All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance
  • Funding Supported Housing
  • Local Housing Companies and Development
  • All You Want to Know about Scottish Social Housing Finance

For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

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