Housing in 2021 and Beyond
Karen Cooper, Chief Exec
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least and, let’s be honest, none of us really saw it coming! Covid-19 wasn’t on our radar and so we have all had to think on our feet and adapt quickly. At PCHA, we believe we have responded well and shown our true resilience. The pace of change has been dramatic as we have had to rethink the way we work, communicate, collaborate and deliver services. We like to think we have always been pretty light on our feet, but this has definitely tested us all.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, socialise, travel and communicate; and not all of this has been negative. If you had asked me in January if we could deliver a service from home, I would have said no. If you had told me that we would hold Board meetings by Zoom, I would have laughed! In some ways the pandemic has enabled us to create a lot of positive changes in a very condensed period, particularly in regard to digitalisation (e.g. new IT systems) and agile working (more flexible hours and working from home).
At PCHA we pride ourselves on being a community organisation with a strong relationship with our residents, but even we have seen an increased level of positive engagement with residents during lockdown, despite not being in the office! This has challenged our thinking about service delivery and ways of working and indeed what it means to be “local”. We have recognised that positive engagement does not need to be linked to a traditional office model and, in fact, in 2020 we have made contact with residents with whom we had limited contact previously. Therefore, we have a real opportunity to rethink how we work and deliver services to our residents. One thing is absolutely clear: we must be more agile and responsive in the way we work in 2021 and beyond.
In 2021 there are likely to be two keys challenges for the social housing sector: increasing poverty/unemployment and an escalation in mental health issues. Whilst these have always been a part of our work, I think all housing associations need to put additional resources into supporting residents in these two areas (and in the case of the mental health, staff too). The pandemic has refocused the sector as a whole on resident welfare. The White Paper on social housing recently released by the Government echoes this change. Of course, PCHA – like most small housing associations – has always had this focus, but that is not to say we should be complacent.
The White Paper, in the main, contains few surprises and the devil will be in the detail! However, this detail will take some time to emerge so we shall wait and see how some of this plays out. Clearly, building safety is one of the greatest challenges for the sector as a whole and whilst many smaller associations may not have an abundance of tall buildings, this does not let us off the hook! Keeping our residents safe must be our priority but the Government must recognise the price tag attached to this and the impact this may have on our ability to develop affordable homes.
2021 and beyond will present some real challenges for the social housing sector but it also presents a fantastic opportunity to review how we work with a view to making a real difference to our residents. Bring it on!
Clairglow's COVID-19 Servicing Safety Guide
Tuesday 11th August
With ongoing concerns about COVID-19, this can be a worrying time to let anyone into your home if you need repairs or other work to be done. Our partners Clairglow, who carry out PCHA's boiler repairs and essential gas servicing, have just published a new servicing safety guide for PCHA residents. This details the safety procedures Clairglow operatives will follow, and what they need residents to do, to ensure that everyone stays safe while the necessary work takes place. You can read the guide here or by clicking the icon to the right.
Homes at the Heart campaign
Friday 7th August
Having a safe, secure, comfortable home has become more important than ever, especially during the coronavirus crisis and lockdown.
Homes at the Heart is a national campaign calling for greater investment in social housing. The campaign is being run by five key social housing organisations, including the National Housing Federation and Crisis. The campaign includes six weeks of themed action highlighting how social housing is at the heart of recovery and a stronger economy. Week 2, starting on Monday 10th August, has the theme of ‘making ends meet’ – looking at housing affordability and supply, and how housing has impacted people’s lives during the lockdown.
To find out more about the Homes at the Heart campaign, click here.
To find out how you can get involved with Homes at the Heart as a resident, visit this page.
PAYING YOUR RENT DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
We recognise that as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the way in which people work and carry out daily activities is changing overnight. This could have a direct impact on your personal finances and your ability to pay your rent. It may be that you are entitled to either additional Government support or an increased entitlement to existing benefits. You can find the very latest Government advice on this here.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the National Housing Federation which represents housing associations in England has issued a statement urging anyone living in a housing association home who is worried about financial difficulties to get in touch with their housing association. It has also said that no-one should face the threat of eviction as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and at PCHA we strongly support that view. If you would like to read the full statement it can be found here.
If you find that you are struggling to pay your rent and are unable to make a claim yourself, please contact us as soon as possible at email@example.com. Our Resident Support Officer or another member of our team can assist you to make a claim for appropriate benefits and if necessary we will work with you to agree a suitable repayment arrangement should you fall into arrears. Please note, if you have existing rent arrears and are making payments under an arrangement or Court Order, you should continue to adhere to that arrangement. If you cannot for any reason you must contact us immediately.
Please note that our office is currently closed to visitors and therefore if you currently pay your rent by cash at the office you will need to make alternative arrangements. You can find a full list of alternative payment methods here.
PCHA's 50th birthday celebrations – drinks reception at the House of Commons
2019 was PCHA’s 50th birthday! We held two fantastic events to celebrate, both of which were a great success.
Most recently, we held a drinks reception at Portcullis House in Westminster for PCHA's shareholders, partners and friends. Our Chief Executive, Karen, gave a speech about PCHA's achievements over the last 50 years, as well as the impact of the ongoing housing crisis and PCHA's goals for future expansion to provide more and better social housing for the local community. MP Bob Neill and Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation Kate Henderson both spoke about the importance and impact of the work of small housing associations such as PCHA. We ended the speeches with a presentation of PCHA's specially made 50th anniversary video, which you can watch here.
Keep scrolling down to read about our residents' summer picnic – the first of our celebratory events.
PCHA's 50th birthday residents' picnic – we had a blast!
The first event for our 50th birthday was our residents' summer picnic held in Crystal Palace Park on Saturday 14th September.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a great turnout. Our residents and staff enjoyed plenty of food and drink, chatted and socialised. Kids and adults alike were kept entertained by Paul, our talented magician and circus skills performer, and had their faces and arms painted with pretty patterns by the lovely Francesca, our face painter! Feedback was great, and a similar event is in the pipeline for next year – keep an eye on our website and newsletters!
Together with Tenants – Revised Charter
Earlier this year we told you about the National Housing Federation's draft 'Together with Tenants' plan and charter. (See the article below from February 2019 for more details and the original draft charter.) Together with Tenants aims to strengthen the relationship between tenants, residents and housing associations. More specifically, the charter commitments aim to ensure tenants and residents know what they can expect from their landlord.
The draft plan and charter were subject to a two-month open consultation with residents and housing associations, and there were two main outcomes from the feedback. First, a need to ensure the charter commitments were meaningful and would lead to real positive change for tenants and residents. Second, it was clear that the charter commitments and the language used to describe them needed to be simplified.
The revised charter commitments are below. At PCHA we are adopting these commitments as part of our customer service standards. If you have any comments or views on these commitments, please get in touch with us. You can email Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 020 8659 3055.
The new Together with Tenants Charter commitments
1. Relationships – housing associations will treat all tenants and residents with respect in all of their interactions. Relationships between tenants, residents and housing associations will be based on openness, honesty and transparency.
2. Communication – tenants and residents will receive clear, accessible and timely information from their housing association on the issues that matter to them, including important information about their homes and local community, how the organisation is working to address problems, how the organisation is run, and information about performance on key issues.
3. Voice and influence – views from tenants and residents will be sought and valued and this information will be used to inform decisions. Every individual tenant and resident will feel listened to by their housing association on the issues that matter to them and can speak without fear.
4. Accountability – collectively, tenants and residents will work in partnership with their housing association to independently scrutinise and hold their housing association to account for the decisions that affect their homes and services and the quality of homes and services they provide.
5. Quality – tenants and residents can expect their homes to be good quality, well maintained, safe and well managed.
6. When things go wrong – tenants and residents will have simple and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress. Tenants and residents will receive timely advice and support when things go wrong.
Together with Tenants
The National Housing Federation (NHF), the membership body for housing associations in England, has drawn up a plan called ‘Together with Tenants’. It was created in recognition that while housing associations have a strong commitment to engaging with tenants and residents, they don’t always get it right! ‘Together with Tenants’ aims to build a stronger, more balanced relationship between tenants and residents and their housing associations.
This plan includes a charter that housing associations can sign up to. It consists of 8 commitments that tenants and residents have told the NHF they have the right to expect, regardless of their landlord or where they live. We would like your feedback on this charter.
The 8 commitments are as follows:
Every resident has the right to be treated with respect.
Every resident has the right to a decent, safe home and quality service.
Every resident has the right to be listened to and have their view heard on decisions that affect their community, home and the services they receive.
Every resident has the right to know how the organisation is run, how decisions are made, and how they can get involved.
Collectively, residents have the right to influence decisions that affect their community, home and the services they receive.
Every resident will have simple, clear and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress.
Every resident will receive support and advice when things go wrong or their expectations aren’t met.
Every resident will have access to the information they need to make informed decisions and hold their landlord to account.
At PCHA we aim to meet these commitments in any case and therefore we are happy to sign up to this charter. However, we want to know if you, our residents, feel this reflects your expectations. Please get in touch with your views. You can email Karen at email@example.com or call the office on 020 8659 3055.
The NHF are consulting on this charter and their Together with Tenants plan until 19th April. You can participate in their online questionnaire here: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4849220/Together-with-Tenants-Consultation.
We have been considering our future in this very uncertain world over the last year and as such the Board of PCHA has looked at our strengths, weakness, finances, risks and opportunities in great detail. After a great deal of work we are delighted to announce that we have now completed the strategic review and the Board of PCHA believes we have a bright future as an independent community based housing association. “We are really excited about our future and we
have an ambitious corporate plan for the next year or two.
We are committed to developing new homes to help
solve the housing crisis as well as improving our
services and creating homes and
communities we can be really proud of”
Karen Cooper, Chief Executive
Posted 2nd May 2017
These are challenging times for small associations like PCHA and therefore we are currently carrying out a strategic view to consider what the future looks like for us. Is our vision the right one? What could we do differently? How can we work smarter? How can we deliver the services our tenants want and need? All of these questions are ones that we would like feedback on from our tenants so please click here for our survey. It will only take a few minutes and your answers will help shape our future.
Posted 2nd May 2017
NEW DEVELOPMENT, SCOTTS ROAD, BROMLEY
At PCHA developing new homes is important to us as we recognise the chronic shortage of social rented homes in Bromley. We are delighted to have been working with Bromley Council, L&Q and Persimmon Homes to deliver six 2-bed flats for rent in the heart of Bromley Town Centre. The tenants, who have been nominated by Bromley Council, are due to be moving in during May and we hope they are very happy in their new homes.