We launch our Development Strategy for the next five years

Posted on January 31st, 2020 by Elaine Davies

The Development Team have launched their strategy for the next five years. It outlines what the team expect to achieve and their vision for the future.

The strategy has also been shortlisted for Development Strategy of the Year at the Building Communities Awards.

It considers a detailed evaluation of the current environment and looks ahead to what journey we would like to take over the next five years.

It looks at both our affordable development programme and the development of open market sale.

The strategy has been completed by looking at both internal and external improvements along with changes that could be made to help us achieve our business objectives.

Our Head of Development Services Natalie Treadwell said: “We have a clear idea of what success will look like for us in the Development Strategy. There will be seamless communication between the team to internal and external customers.

“We will have an empowered team that will embrace the Citizen values and we will be flexible and adaptable to a changing environment.

“The Development Strategy covers all our new initiatives and defines how the team will work towards each strategic objective.

“We have scrutinised where we are and what we must do to adapt. The strategy projects where we want to be, what products and services we want to be delivering to our customers and how we are going to get there.”

This approach has provided us with our strategic direction and focus for the next five years.

The key points of our Development Strategy are:

The main objectives are:

People – To create a customer focused delivery culture that understands and appreciates the needs and wants of the internal and external customer.

Quality – To set a Citizen and Signature standard that is recognised as a better product; achieving efficient delivery through better quality control.

– Through the minimisation of waste, a shift in focus will ensure we have efficient processes and programming for the delivery of quality new homes.

Land – Our aim is to secure a pipeline of land opportunities to allow us to bring forward developments to meet the business plan.

Regeneration – Our aim is to transform and create communities which give people a foundation for life.

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Street named in memory of much-loved Coventry man

Posted on January 30th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

A street at our Spirit Quarters development in Coventry has been named after a respected member of the community.

John Barrett was involved in many community events, and now a street in Wood End has been named John Barrett Way.

John, who passed away suddenly in 2017, was a community advocate who played an active role in driving forward the regeneration of the area. He was involved with many BBQs and charity fundraising events as well as helping with jobs in the area such as mending chairs in the café, helping to put up gazebos, dressing up as Father Christmas for children and delivering the Spirit Quarters magazine.

John was also a family man and a father of five.

His wife, Janet, attended the ceremony to unveil the street sign in phase four of the development and it was lifted into place by members of his family.

Janet said: “It’s such an honour to have a road named after John – he deserves it for all his community work. I think I will find it quite emotional when I walk past the sign and think of him.

“John was involved with Citizen and the Moat House Trust and he delivered the Spirit Quarters Magazine for the last five years – because of this everyone knew him.

“He would get involved in everything, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do or help with. He was a loveable, jolly guy and he never had any cross words.

“We have lived in Spirit Quarters for 41 years and John was over the moon when we were given the house at the development.”

The street sign has been put in place outside the new show home and sales office for the Spirit Quarters development near Milverton Road, which is opening Saturday, February 1.

The new road is part of phase four of Spirit Quarters, which is being developed in partnership with Keepmoat Homes, Coventry City Council and Moat House Community Trust. It is made up of 107 homes which are for private sale through Keepmoat Homes, with many available to buy using the Government backed Help to Buy: Equity Loan Scheme.

Since the project began in 2006 we have demolished over 500 homes and have built over 850 new homes – which includes 275 affordable homes.

We’ve also made huge improvements to existing homes – including an award-winning scheme at the Manor Farm estate, which saw us work with partners to transform 360 homes and the surrounding areas.

Our Director of Regeneration Services Kevin Roach said: “John was a great community figure who did so much for his community in Spirit Quarters.

“It felt right to name a street in his honour and memory.

“We are sure that people in the community will think of John when they walk down the street and his family will feel so proud of him.”

Charlotte Goode, Regional Managing Director at Keepmoat Homes in the West Midlands, added: “We’re thrilled to have named one of the roads at the Spirit Quarters development after John Barrett. He was a key community figure and very much deserves the accolade.

“Work on this exciting new phase at Spirit Quarters development is well under way and is due to be complete in summer 2021.”

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Our Development Trainees create LinkedIn group for young professionals in construction

Posted on January 29th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Two of our Development Trainees have set up a networking group on LinkedIn which aims to help young professionals in the construction industry.

Indy Panesar and Alex Mackness set up the group with regeneration officer at Accord Housing Halisha Kaur. They are currently in the process of growing the platform.

Indy said: “The group has been set up as a networking area for the next generation of young professionals in the construction sector.

“It aims to support, promote and invest in the progression of young people, trainees, apprentices and graduates in the construction industry.”

The group’s purpose is to help young people progress into construction related roles and influence construction and development companies to invest in the next generation of professionals.

Alex added: “It was mutually agreed between the three of us that there is a gap in the market for young people working in the construction industry. We all thought it made sense to develop of group which will benefit trainees and young people in construction.

“The group is open to anyone. People will need to request to join and we will approve people who would like to be part of the group.”

The group has been well received so far.

Indy said: “The development team here and at Accord have been very supportive with the launch of NGen. We’re still in the process of growing the platform and we are looking forward to seeing it develop.

“We would like the group to be a place where people can share their experiences and talk about their journeys.

“The group will be a place that can provide a learning curve for trainees. We hope that it will also encourage other companies to invest in young professionals like ourselves.”

You can access the group here.

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‘We must set our tenants up to thrive not to fail. That is why we are moving to furnished tenancies’ – read our Chief Operating Officer, Kate Still’s, comment piece for Inside Housing

Posted on January 28th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Our Chief Operating Officer, Kate Still, has written a comment piece for Inside Housing about our Fresh Start Standard.

Inside Housing is a publication that covers news in the housing sector.

Kate talks about we have to make a real difference to people’s lives and not set them up to fail.

Read Kate’s comment piece here:

We need to face a stark reality: often when we let our homes we are setting our tenants up to fail. Alison Inman made the point perfectly recently when she argued that new homes should be furnishd as standard.

We are “sending people into the arms of high-interest loan providers”, she said.

Alison is right. That is, unfortunately, exactly what we are doing when we give people a home without any of the essentials that they need.

Earlier this year we set about piloting a new standard for re-letting our homes with a view to fundamentally rethinking it. Our current model is not unusual – decorating vouchers and no flooring, white goods or furniture. Nonetheless, we believe this needed to change.

One of the first things we did was go out with people when they first walked into their home so that we could experience it first hand.

I’m not afraid to admit that the reaction of some people during the project made me feel ashamed.

As social housing providers, we are often stepping in to provide a home that is helping people out of very challenging circumstances.

Imagine being in that situation and then walking into a house with your children and seeing it has no furniture, nothing on the walls, no white goods or even carpet.

For many people, entering their new home feels like one step forward and two steps back.

One of our customers said all she could think of was how she was going to buy everything she needed as a bare minimum and the impact that living without this while she saved up would have on her children. Others said they would rather remain in a homeless hostel.

In the end, many people in this position get high-interest loans or take out finance deals to get hold of the things they need. Not televisions, games consoles or the luxuries some would have us believe, but a bed for their child, carpets, fridges – the things we can all agree we couldn’t live without.

It’s no wonder that just months down the line many of these tenants find themselves in trouble and struggling to pay their rent. And this too often spirals into a situation which is overwhelming and irretrievable.

To tackle this we created a super team made up of the people across our organisation who were closest to the re-let process. They worked with an innovation company to lead on what has become our ‘Fresh Start Standard’.

This new standard includes bright, clean decoration and flooring – what people told us they wanted during our research phase – as well as white goods.

We piloted the Fresh Start Standard on 10 of our homes during October. The reactions of the people who moved into them was one of shock for all the right reasons.

Suddenly people were walking into a place that they could make their own without spending thousands of pounds in their first few days or be faced with crushing worry about how they were going to cope. Instead it was a place they were happy for their children to stay.

Clearly there is work still left to do to roll out the model across our portfolio. For example, we are working with white goods providers to come up with low-cost lease options which we can offer through a tiny weekly charge, and developing furnishing packages of which some can be funded through the care grant process.

Our board recently approved a £1m package of funding that will allow us to expand the Fresh Start Standard to 300 of our existing homes in the next financial year. All our new build social rent homes will also adhere to the standard from next year. Eventually, our aim is to apply it to every home we let.

We are phasing the process as it does require us to learn continuously about how to do this right and maximise the benefits for our customers and our organisation.

We know all this will place our void costs in the bottom of the lowest quartile of performance in the sector, and for us that is absolutely fine.

We need to change the narrative that low void costs equals good performance.

Social housing’s roots are about tacking inequality in all its forms. It was always about so much more than physical shelter, it was about giving people a foundation in their life – the base and the skills they need to be resilient and to play their part in society.

When we put people into an empty home with no decoration, flooring, furniture or white goods, we are betraying that vision.

Yes, there are challenges involved – but we must be willing to find ways to do this because this is how we will make a real difference to people’s lives.

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We hold our first Wellbeing Week for Gateway residents

Posted on January 27th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Residents living at the Gateway have taken part in our first ever Wellbeing Week for residents.

Gateway is our primary facility for homeless people in Coventry and houses people from all backgrounds.

People volunteered their talents, including staff across our organisation, so that residents could take part in workshops and focus on wellbeing.

Some of the classes that were held included cooking classes, money advice, Irish dancing, a gym induction, cake decorating, Reiki, yoga and bingo.

Our Housing Support Manager, Gail Cooper, said: “The week has been so well received and residents really enjoyed taking part in different events.

“There were several highlights throughout the week, we all loved the Irish Dancing which was held by Gateway resident Brendan – everyone had a laugh and it was good exercise too.

“Residents were also treated to a make up session with Zahra Somji. She gave them their own make up so they were able to use the tips they’d learnt and practice in their own time.

“Wasps rugby players also opened the new gym for us, and Programme Manager Tony Marsella gave residents a gym induction which were really beneficial for them.

“We also opened our new Working Wardrobe at the Gateway, the residents’ faces when they walked in and started trying on the clothes was lovely. I’ll never forget that moment.

“Thank you to everyone who helped with the week by holding sessions, donating items or volunteering time – we are so grateful.”

Gateway resident, Gabriel Chivesa, said he loved the new gym which was opened.

He said: “The new gym is fantastic.

“It’s going to be great to put health and wellbeing front and centre at the Gateway.

“Thanks to Wasps players Tom and Owain for showing us all the equipment. They had some great tips and I think I gave Tom a run for his money on the rowing machine!

“I’m really looking forward to using the gym and getting active from now on.”

Our Accountant – Citizen Treasury Zahra Somji added: “Being at the Gateway for Wellbeing Week was fantastic.

“It was great to hold a LookGood, Feel Good class there which I really feel gave some of the residents a much needed confidence boost.

“They were thrilled with their makeup bags full of goodies at the end of the session so they could really bring what they have learnt to life.

“I can’t recommend getting involved with Citizen Giving enough to staff. It really is very rewarding.”

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Wasps rugby players open new gym at the Gateway

Posted on January 24th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Wasps rugby stars have taken a break from training to open a new gym at the Gateway.

Gateway is our primary facility for homeless people in Coventry and houses people from all backgrounds.

The new facility has lots of equipment including a treadmill, exercise bike, max trainer, two rowing machines and a multi-gym.

To mark the grand opening, players Tom Willis and Owain James visited residents to give them some tips about health, fitness and to maximise their use of the gym.

Our Housing Support Manager Gail Cooper said: “Thanks so much Tom and Owain for making our gym opening extra special for residents.

“The gym opening is so important to us as we believe it will really help both the physical and mental wellbeing for our residents at the Gateway.

“It’s very exciting that it’s now officially open and I’m sure our residents will be taking full advantage of the facilities after receiving some tips from Tom and Owain.

“Thanks again for your support. We really appreciate it.”

Gateway resident, Gabriel Chivesa, said: “The new gym is fantastic.

“It’s going to be great to put health and wellbeing front and centre at the Gateway.

“Thanks to Tom and Owain for showing us all the equipment. They had some great tips and I think I gave Tom a run for his money on the rowing machine!

“I’m really looking forward to using the gym and getting active from now on.”

Wasps’ back row Tom Willis added: “I think this is a great idea by the hostel to introduce the gym as exercise can really help to boost mood and motivation – which are two key ingredients for anyone who is trying to overcome any form of adversity.

“Myself and Owain had a brilliant time offering ideas to the residents on how they can use the gym to improve a basic level of fitness – such as slowly building up their cardiovascular exercises using the treadmill or rowing machine, or advising how many reps they should be doing at a time with the multigym equipment to build up their core strength.

“We also discussed the best carbohydrates to eat prior to a workout and which protein foods would help to recover afterwards to give them a well-rounded diet.

“It was a pleasure to meet everyone and we both walked away feeling like we’d made a real difference to the group and hope that the gym can help spur them to stay focused and positive as they prepare for their next step in life.”

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Our HR Team have been shortlisted for the IRIS Customer Awards

Posted on January 22nd, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We’re delighted to announce that our HR Team have been shortlisted for the HR Transformation Project of the Year award at the IRIS Customer Awards 2020.

The IRIS Customer Awards focus on celebrating and showcasing excellence amongst their tens of thousands of customers. The awards focus on five sectors – Accountancy, HR, Payroll, Education and Corporate Social Responsibility.

The team have been shortlisted for their successful implementation of Myplace, our new HR and Payroll system which launched last summer.

Our Director of People, Matt Posaner, says: “The development of the Myplace HR and Payroll System has made significant improvements to the way we store, process and manage our HR and Payroll information.

“The change provided by this intuitive system has been really well received by staff across our organisation.

“Well done to the HR project team who worked hard to deliver this big piece of work. You should all be extremely proud and I have everything crossed for the awards ceremony in February!”

Elona Mortimer-Zhika, IRIS CEO, adds: “We’re delighted to announce Citizen as one of our finalists for our Transformation Project of the Year award.

“We’ve seen an exceptionally high standard of entries this year, demonstrating once more the achievements of our customers in their respective specialist sectors and the contribution they make to communities. It’s very pleasing to see their individual success stories and how IRIS has helped play its part.

“Our judges are spoilt for choice when picking a winner. Good luck to the team at Citizen and see you all on the big night!”

The winners will be revealed at the IRIS Customer Awards ceremony on February 11th at the ICC Birmingham.

You can find out more about the IRIS Customer Awards here.

Well done everyone and good luck!

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We’re investing £1million to fit out 300 re-let homes in new standard

Posted on January 21st, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We have committed to spend £1m to fit out 300 of our homes with a new re-let standard.

It will fund work to 300 homes in 2020-21 on what will be known as the Fresh Start Standard – which includes fresh decoration throughout, new flooring and other renovations.

Our board signed off the investment following a successful pilot on ten of our homes last October.

Kevin Rodgers, our Chief Executive, said: “We believe very strongly that it is our duty to make sure when people move into our homes they get a fresh start.

“Too often social housing tenants start of off on the wrong foot, with none of the essentials they need to be able to live well in a home.

“We believe this could be part of the solution to address many tenancy sustainment issues related to affordability, eviction and abandonment, particularly for single people who are struggling on low incomes and receiving Universal Credit.

“The Fresh Start Standard is the first step in us saying that we think our customers deserve better and we are committed to making sure they get the right start with us.”

We piloted the Fresh Start Standard in ten of its homes in October 2019.

It followed a project which was led by an in-house team, which worked with innovation organisation !WhatIf?, to conduct research on what customers wanted most from their new home. From this the team created the new standard.

The project will be closely monitored to establish the benefits it brings for tenants and the organisation.

Earlier this year Citizen launched the Tenant Support and Wellbeing Service, a 24-hour, seven-day a week telephone counselling service for all its tenants – believed to be the first service of its kind in the sector.

“We know that a lot of our customers face really difficult circumstances and we believe a big part of our role is giving them access to services that will build their resilience and make life easier for them,” Kevin Rodgers said.

“The launch of our Tenant Support and Wellbeing Service and the Fresh Start Standard is just the start of what will become our wider approach to giving our customers a foundation for life – that is the role that social housing providers should play.”

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Find out how one of our residents is helping to shape our Citizen choir

Posted on January 17th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Staff from across our organisation are taking part in rehearsals to become part of the Citizen Choir and perform at our staff conference in March.

However, staff may not be aware that the person transforming our choir is one of our residents!

Andy Guthrie, who owns The Workplace Choir Company, believes people don’t have to sing to be in a choir and the staff performance in March will be brilliant.

He said: “I find the transformation of groups throughout rehearsals amazing. People who have joined the choir are involved in music making and share the incredible feeling this brings – that they, along with others, are part of something big.

“Those who get the most out of the choir are often the people who are new to it and don’t sing every day.

“Some people think they could never do anything like it but singing in a choir is something that connects people emotionally and it’s a powerful thing to perform in one.

“It makes me feel like I have the best job in the world.”

Andy said over the next 10 days he will be finalising the song choice for the conference and arranging different parts.

He said: “There are six weeks to go until the Staff Conference, so it is a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure the performance will be amazing!”

Andy first started The Workplace Choir five years ago after he found a gap in the market. He applied for a Live Work contract, so he could run his business and live at the same address which is now one of our properties in Coventry.

He said: “Gareth Malone was very big at the time and I was already working for a choir company, Sing Live. I Googled workplace choir and there was nobody doing it, so I built my website and the phone started ringing.

“I had a musical background as I sang in choirs when I was growing up and I was also in a band that toured and produced a couple of albums.

“Being part of a choir is such a good feeling and I hope that everyone who takes part in the Citizen Choir loves every minute of it, the performance is going to be great – and it’s lovely to work close to home too!”

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