We have committed to a new collaboration with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and five other housing associations which will boost affordable housing.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between each of the organisations to develop a business case for driving affordable housing developments, economic activity and housing policy objects.
The priorities of the partnership will be:
More affordable homes built in the region
A broader range, mix and supply of available homes
Addressing market failure to unlock dormant sites
Maximising construction on brownfield land
A collaborative regional approach – maximising local expertise, assets, networks and partnerships
Our Chief Executive and Chair of the West Midlands Housing Association Partnership (WMHAP), Kevin Rodgers, said: “Collectively, we welcome the commitment from the WMCA to build the essential new affordable homes the region needs.
“All of the members of the WMHAP are committed to working together to making this new vision a reality and see the signing of the memorandum of understanding as a significant step in an exciting partnership.”
Other housing associations involved in the memorandum of understanding include Midland Heart, Bromford, Accord and whg.
Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, Andy Street, said: “This ground-breaking new partnership brings the WMCA together with the combined expertise and resources of five of the largest housing associations within the WMHAP with the aim of providing even more affordable homes for the people of the West Midlands.
“Our region has led the way on housebuilding with record numbers in recent years, but our focus now is on how we build even more homes that are truly affordable. Alongside our new definition of affordability, which links to income rather than the market rate, this partnership will help do exactly that.”
Another key priority for the collaboration will be the pioneering of inclusive growth objectives, including access to open space, the use of sustainable construction methods, good quality design and a distinct sense of place with local shops and services and the provision of education and skills training.
Cllr Mike Bird, leader of Walsall Council and WMCA portfolio holder for housing and land, added: “This coalition is central to our mission to utilise our stock of brownfield land to deliver inclusive growth and affordable homes.
“A key goal is to establish the region as the national leader in unlocking challenging brownfield sites, especially along key transport corridors and using them to create vibrant new communities that offer good quality, affordable homes for local people.
“By injecting new life into derelict sites, we can help protect our Green Belt and drive an economic recovery that benefits all our communities.”
The next stage for the collaboration is to work up the detailed business case for the Affordable Housing Collaborative Development Vehicle’s establishment.
We have created a new animation which highlights our crucial fire safety advice for customers living in our high-rise blocks.
Customers will start to receive our fire safety guidance which includes a QR code linking to a new animation this week.
The animation and advice are voiced over and translated into seven different languages to reflect the diverse make-up of our customers living in the blocks.
The guidance, which we consulted West Midlands Fire Service on, will arrive in a high-quality personalised sleeve so our customers can easily keep it to hand.
Paul Baker, our Director of Asset Management and Safety, said: “Fire safety is a hugely important part of our work.
“As we look to the future and the implementation of the Building Safety Act it is important that we do all we can to make sure customers in our blocks know what to do in the event of a fire. This is simply the right and responsible thing for us to do.
“These buildings carry no greater risk of a fire, but there are things people who live in them need to know that are specific to this type of building. This includes the importance of staying in your home if the fire is somewhere else in the building and other crucial guidance.
“This campaign is a great way for us to get across that message in a highly visual and easy-to-understand way.”
Peter Gill, our Director of Housing, added: “This is a crucial piece of work for us.
“We want to do everything we can to protect our customers. When we spoke to some of our customers after fires in 2020, it was apparent that not all of them were clear on what they should do.
“This is a proactive approach to get ahead of the game and do all that we can to make sure customers know what to do if there is a fire in their building to stay safe. It also includes guidance on important prevention measures.”
Our Programmed Works team in Maintenance Operations team has been awarded the ISO 90001:2015 accreditation.
The International Organisation for Standardisation has given the team the award which is the world’s most widely recognised quality management standard. It shows our customers that we have a consistent and good quality service.
The team were audited by the British Assessment Bureau with the first stage taking place in July and the second stage taking place in October 2020.
The British Assessment Bureau were impressed at the speed the team received the accreditation and said some of the aspects they audited were the best they had seen. This included a process document that was easy to follow and could be audited at the various stages, a concise and relevant set of KPIs and a performance management model.
Our Head of Programmed Works Adam Borrie said: “Well done to the team for gaining this accreditation – all their hard work has paid off!
“Part of the reason for seeking the standard was to re-assure external and internal customers that work is given to the in-house team on merit. We are in a fortunate position and therefore our customers should expect a quality service, each and every time we are asked to complete works.
“We have worked through a process of improvement over the last two years to achieve this recognition and the improvement trajectory has been remarkable – we’ve gone from significant operating losses in 2018/2019 to within budget in 2019/2020. We’ve also achieved high customer satisfaction scores and met our programme targets given to us by the Assets Team.
“Congratulations to everyone involved on this huge achievement!
A £1.75m grant will help provide a safe place to stay and long-term accommodation for homeless people who were helped off the street during the coronavirus pandemic.
The grant will help provide 25 homes across Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall – and work is underway to ensure the properties are ready to live in by March 31, 2021.
We worked with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to submit the successful bid to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Homes England.
The funding has been awarded as part of the Government’s Next Steps Accommodation programme, which aims to provide homes for homeless people identified during the recent Everybody In campaign.
The Everybody In initiative was rolled out nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure people who were sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness, were protected and supported into emergency accommodation. Recently the Government confirmed it would make a further £10m available nationally to support rough sleepers.
The £1.75m grant will support local authorities and their partners to continue much needed support to prevent a return to the streets.
Our Chief Executive and Chair of West Midlands Housing Association Partnership Kevin Rodgers said: “It’s fantastic that we have been successful with this bid to provide extra accommodation across the West Midlands for people who really need it and it’s great to be working with the West Midlands Combined Authority on tackling homelessness.
“Homelessness is a serious issue and we are committed to playing our part. In our business strategy one of our objectives is to improve our support services and tackle homelessness. By 2023 we hope to have an additional 76 new homes that will provide temporary accommodation – and it’s great to see that this initiative will in part help us to achieve this ambition.
“I am excited and optimistic to deliver this project and support those who have found themselves homeless or sleeping rough.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We are delighted to be working with Citizen on this new venture.
“The impact of COVID19 has presented the region with unprecedented challenges. Local authorities have done a remarkable job in protecting our most vulnerable citizens by offering support to every person known to be rough sleeping in the region.
“This funding will now help our continued joint efforts and ensure that people are supported to build a life away from the streets for good.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Citizen for partnering with us. I am confident that it will be a success and hope that this will lead to further collaboration next year.”
Cllr Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods at Birmingham City Council and chair of the WMCA Homelessness Taskforce Members Advisory Group said: “This money will further tackle homelessness across the West Midlands.
“We have worked hard to help protect the wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable citizens and this new grant is an example of how we are continuing to work with our partners across the region to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping.”
A mum of two has moved into her own home with her two children at our Hall Green development ahead of Christmas.
The 210-home development in Birmingham was built at the site of the former greyhound stadium with Vistry Partnerships.
Kirstie Barclay has moved into one of the flats with her two boys after living with her nan.
She said she grew up in the area and is thrilled to have her own place.
She said: “It’s lovely to have the place for Christmas, it will be so exciting to wake up on Christmas day with our own place. I previously lived with my nan and this is our first place together on our own as a family.
“It’s a great feeling to have my own space after living with so many under one roof.
“I do like it here, it’s lovely and everyone is really friendly. I used to drive past and look at the site thinking the transformation from dog-track to housing development is amazing.
“Just the three of us living here is perfect.”
The scheme which is made up of apartments and two-and-three-bedroom homes is being built jointly with Vistry Partnerships.
Selling under the Linden Homes brand, Vistry’s award-winning housebuilding business will sell 101 of the homes. We have acquired the remaining 109 homes for £14.5m and they will be offered at affordable rents as well as shared ownership.
Apartments in block B at the site have recently been handed over to our customers for Christmas.
Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “We are so pleased to hear that Kirstie and her boys love their new home and that they have moved in just in time for Christmas.
“We hope that they will have a lovely Christmas together and they enjoy all aspects of their new home.
“The site has been transformed from its previous use as a dog track and it’s brilliant to see customers moving into the homes. We hope they will all be very happy living at the development.”
The site is progressing well with shared ownership homes nearly complete and work continuing on the building of the last few properties.
Regional Director at Vistry Partnerships Darren Beale added: “It’s fantastic to have worked with Citizen on this development and we are thrilled that customers are moving into their homes.
“We wish all the customers a Happy Christmas and hope they enjoy living in their properties.”
Last month we launched a recruitment campaign for our Customer Committee, and we’ve received 380 applications!
The committee will form a central part of our new approach to make sure customers are involved in our work and get the opportunity to shape our services.
It’s an important part of our strategic objective to improve our offer to customers, which is part of looking out for our citizens pledge in our 2020-23 business strategy.
Virtual interviews with shortlisted customers will take place during the first two weeks of December and successful candidates will be formally approved by our Board and appointed before Christmas.
Our Director of Transformation Will Walker said: “We’re thrilled with the amount of people who have applied to be part of the Customer Committee.
“Thanks to all the senior managers across the organisation who helped me to sift through and score all our applications. I think we’ve got ourselves a really strong shortlist!
“Once our Customer Committee has formed, every member will go through an induction process to provide them with an overview of Citizen. This will include training on key areas of focus within social housing such as the social housing white paper, building safety and the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) Together with Tenants plan.
“I’ve been amazed by the volume and depth of experience that our customers have. We’ve worked hard to ensure that we are accessing a reflective and fresh group of customers who can really help drive the improvements we’re making through our business strategy.”
The committee will consist of 10 customer members and one independent member. The committee will be chaired by Helen Scarrett who will also be the main link into Board.
We can’t wait to meet the new members of our Customer Committee!
We’ve helped transformed Hillfields Square in Coventry into a floor-paint play area for children as part of a pledge to improve the community and help families.
The project has seen Hillfields Square given a fun makeover with the addition of a painted bike and scooter track, hopscotch, board games and mazes.
Funding has come from a Safer Streets Fund of £550,000 to help fight crime in the area which we helped to secure alongside West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner and Coventry City Council.
Our Business Ambassador Kelly Lewis said: “The Hillfields Village Square is unfortunately an area that attracts a lot of anti-social behaviour.
“Part of our strategy to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the square is to encourage families to use this space more.
“With so many young families living next to the Hillfields square in our homes we decided to use some of the Safer Streets Fund to give them somewhere to play which is not too far from their home.
“Our Safer Streets Fund partners are thrilled with the new floor paint play area and we are looking forward to the official launch after Christmas.”
PCSO Adam Bettison from the St Michaels Neighbourhood Police Team 3 said: “Around 1,000 residents overlook Hillfields Square and many of them are young families living in the five high-rise tower blocks.
“The nearest park is about half a mile away so we consulted with local people about ways we could help and there was overwhelming support for this painted play area.
“There is a road track where youngsters can ride their bikes and scooters and learn road safety, plus snakes and ladders and other games. Some of the wording is in six different languages to reflect the area’s diversity.
“It’s ready for use now but we’ll officially open it early in the New Year when we’ll also hold a bike and scooter marking session to help youngsters protect their new Christmas gifts.”
West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Waheed Saleem, led the bid to secure £550,000 from the Safer Streets Fund.
The money will be spent in Hillfields and will go towards initiatives focused on reducing crime in the area by installing CCTV in the area, increasing the number of lamp posts to improve lighting and supplying residents with home security packs.
Cllr David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, and ward councillor in Hillfields, added: “This is the first stage in a series of improvements to the area. We want the square to be a place that the community can enjoy. By giving it a makeover, we hope that children and young people who helped suggest ideas for the artwork will be encouraged to play and meet outside.
“I’m really looking forward to other schemes being rolled out in the coming months as part of the Safer Streets Fund that benefit residents and have a positive impact on the quality of life in the area.”
We recently distributed a leaflet to the 740 homes we own and manage in Hillfields to inform customers of the work happening as part of the Safer Streets Fund project.
Earlier this year we told you that a £550,000 Safer Streets Fund grant was awarded to Hillfields in Coventry to help fight crime in the area.
The Safer Streets Fund is a £25million Government initiative which was secured by the Police and Crime Commission for the West Midlands to cut crime and improve safety.
The fund will see us working closely with Coventry City Council and the Local Neighbourhood Policing Team to improve community safety in Hillfields.
There are several improvements works taking place in Hillfields throughout November and December 2020 to help reduce crime in the area.
Adding additional and upgrading the existing street lighting around Paul Stacey House, Douglas House and Pioneer House to increase visibility
Upgrading existing and installing new CCTV in the Paul Stacey House car park and at the rear of Hillfields House
Environmental work to reduce the height of the trees at the rear of Paul Stacey House and Hillfields House to make people feel safer and to allow for more natural light
Work to Village Square which includes the removal of planters
Crime prevention workshops for customers and security packs to improve the security of their homes.
Our Director of Housing Peter Gill said: “It’s great news for us and our customers that work is starting to happen with the Hillfields Safer Streets Fund.
“£550,000 is the maximum grant available. I’m really pleased that the Government is acknowledging and acting on the problems we have with crime in Hillfields and are committed to helping us improve community safety.
“I’m certain our customers will welcome the news when they receive an update from us on the project this week. I look forward to keeping you all informed as the project develops.”
This week we are distributing a leaflet to the 740 homes we own and manage in Hillfields to inform customers of the work happening as part of the Safer Streets Fund project.