Our Director of Customer Services Lourdes Sharpe has been invited to join the CCA board

Posted on September 23rd, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Following on from our Customer Service Team being CCA (Customer Contact Association) accredited for the fourth year in a row, our Director of Customer Services Lourdes Sharpe has been invited to be a board member.

This means that she will play a part in helping organisations become accredited.

Lourdes has joined the review board, and this means that she will look at the assessor’s report as an independent check of the assessor’s recommendations.
She will also make sure that sufficient evidence for compliance against standards has been supplied to ensure accreditation.

As part of the role she will also pick up and promote good practice and encourage shared learning.

Lourdes said: “I’m thrilled to be asked to join – and I feel proud that Citizen is up there with the big organisations including national banks, the NHS, government departments and other private sector members having an influence.

“I was invited to join the board – I do have some experience in a previous life of conducting assessments against standards and I know the CCA have always been impressed at how Citizen approached our accreditation assessments.

“It’s also a bit scary – I will have to be brave and honest. On the receiving end I know what it’s like waiting for that report after you have had an assessment and how its shared around organisations, even to board level.

“I want to accurately reflect the organisation I am reviewing, the work they are doing and how they have progressed year on year as my team and I know first-hand what it takes!”

The board ensures standards are maintained, it identifies good practice and recognises learning opportunities.

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Affordable homes are handed over to customers at our Little Moor Hill development in Smethwick

Posted on September 7th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Affordable homes at our Little Moor Hill development in Smethwick have been completed and handed over to our customers.

The £3.8m development which is being built by TC Homes is made up of 22 homes – 11 affordable rent and 11 shared ownership.

The homes are a mix of two- and three-bedroom homes.

Pupils from the Devonshire Junior Academy also chose the road name for the development last year – naming it Symphony Drive after Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “It’s great to see these affordable rent homes completed and handed over to our customers.

“Housing is much needed in the area and this will help to provide families with homes.

“It’s a great development and it’s lovely to see that local schoolchildren named the road too.”

Nick attended the site with representatives from TC Homes.

Site Manager for TC Homes (Contracting) LTD, Paul Bennett, added: “It’s been brilliant working on this development with Citizen and it’s good to see the homes being handed over to customers despite a challenging year with the outbreak of Covid 19.

“We’re continuing work on the rest of the site with the shared ownership properties planned for completion in September.”

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“We must stay focused on our social purpose as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic” – Read our CEO Kevin Rodgers’ comment piece for Inside Housing

Posted on September 3rd, 2020 by Elaine Davies

This week our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers features in a comment piece in Inside Housing, the biggest magazine in the housing sector.

The piece focuses on how housing associations must stay focused on their social purpose as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic and discusses the launch of our 2020-23 business strategy this week.

Read the full article below:

It’s hard to know if we will ever go back to what we considered normal just six months ago.

As we look to the future plenty of challenges lie ahead for housing associations.

How do we respond to the huge barriers many people in our communities face as we enter recession?

How do we capitalise on the opportunity to arrange our workplaces differently, in a way which supports us to work more effectively and satisfies the demand from our teams for greater flexibility?

How do we meet the changing expectations our residents have about the services we provide and the way we provide them?

Yet despite all the potential for the way that we work and the world around us to change, some things don’t.

Let’s be honest – we haven’t fared anywhere near as badly as many sectors during the pandemic.

Of course there have been challenges, but if you think the impact on your income forecast and your other KPIs has been severe, spare a thought for what the books of a travel firm, a retail outlet or a chain of restaurants must look like.

I don’t want to belittle the recovery needed to get our work back on track. At Citizen our teams have been working extremely hard to bring our performance back to the level it was prior to the pandemic.

But the need for the services that we provide is not going away and people in our communities are likely to need us as much as ever in the coming months and years.

We all have a duty to quickly refocus on the work that can make the biggest difference to the most people.

On 1 September we mark our first birthday as Citizen and little could we have known the challenges that lay in story for our first 12 months.

Just two weeks before lockdown came into effect we launched the headlines of our 2020-23 business strategy to our staff with a view to launching the full strategy in April. Needless to say, when coronavirus came along there were other priorities and we delayed this.

Six months later we are now in a position to use our anniversary to reveal our objectives for the next three years.

Many housing associations will have been having similar conversations, and the challenge we must set when we do this is not to bring the axe down on the projects that are difficult and do not deliver an immediate – or any – financial return.

We all need to focus on financial targets and viability to secure our future, but we also need to keep our decision-making rooted in our social purpose.

Relative to the incredibly difficult conversations boards and executive teams must be having in other sectors, I feel very fortunate that when we came to review our initial strategy we were able to proceed with nearly all of our plans.

And the first projects that we wanted to preserve were those we know will have the biggest impact on the lives of people in our communities.

So, for example, we will continue to pilot our new re-let standard and we will continue with our massive long-term regeneration projects in Coventry. Neither of these projects will bring in more income, but they are investments in our communities which will be life-changing for generations to come.

They were the right thing to do before the pandemic, and they still are.

The nature of coronavirus is extraordinary, but we’ve faced many challenges in our sector; some which have affected our organisations more severely than this.

So, as we look to recover and work out how we support the people who really need us, let’s challenge ourselves to keep doing the work which has the biggest impact on our communities.

That is what we are here to do and in an ever-changing world, it is one thing which has not changed.

Kevin Rodgers, Chief Executive at Citizen

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We reveal our exciting plans in our new business strategy on our first birthday

Posted on September 1st, 2020 by Elaine Davies

As we celebrate our first birthday as Citizen we are delighted to be able to launch our new 2020-23 business strategy.

In 2019 we went through one of the most significant changes in our history when we amalgamated our group structure and rebranded as Citizen.

We said from the start that this would be much more than a change of name and Home is our foundation for life sets out an ambitious plan to transform our organisation and our services over the next three years.

Our purpose is to provide homes that are a foundation for life and we can’t think of a better name for a strategy that will guide our work over the coming years.

In the strategy we make three core pledges and set out seven focused objectives that we are committed to achieving by 2023. To meet this commitment, we also outline a series of projects which will transform our services and the way that we provide them.

Kevin Rodgers, our Chief Executive, said: “We are passionate about our social purpose and the work we outline reflects this.

“The housing challenges in the West Midlands are as significant as they have ever been. House prices are eight times the average income, private rents continue to rise and there is a shortfall of at least 40,000 homes a year.

“Meanwhile homelessness continues to increase, welfare changes have put increasing pressure on people living in our communities and employment levels continue to be a serious issue.

“The impact of coronavirus on the people in our communities has been far-reaching and we will play a role in supporting people through this unprecedented and ongoing challenge. We also need to keep track of how this situation develops and be agile enough to adjust the plans we set out here if we need to.

“All of this presents a challenge for housing associations, but we believe it also presents a significant opportunity.

“As an anchor institution in the West Midlands, we believe in our role to help our communities and the people in them to thrive.

“Our strategy reflects the fact that we want to do so much more than provide homes; we want to provide homes that are a foundation for life.”

Find out more about our strategy on our Our goals page.

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We’ve handed over all the properties at our Gerard Avenue development and properties are for sale at the Tudor Grange part of the site

Posted on August 25th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Our development of 72 homes just off Queen Margaret’s Road and Gerard Avenue in Coventry is now complete.

The affordable part of the site, known as Gerard Avenue, comprises of 51 affordable homes and the Tudor Grange section has 21 homes being sold through our Signature brand.

All our affordable properties were handed over to customers in March.

Telca Nala was one of our first customers to move into one of the affordable homes with her son.

She said: “I’m so grateful to have moved into my lovely house here.

“I lived in a three bed previously and I really wanted to swap it for a two bed.

“When we got here the house was beautiful outside, then we found it was lovey inside too – and it had a fantastic back garden.

“I can’t help but wish that everyone else can have a property like mine – building developments like this can change people’s lives.”

The development’s key features include being close to the university, good transport links to the M42 and being surrounded by areas of wildlife which are unusual in an urban setting.

Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “This is a lovely development in Coventry and it’s great news all the homes were completed earlier this year.

“Final stage works including roads and footpaths are due to be finished this September.

“The modern homes at this development are lovely, spacious and well-designed, with two nice brooks running through the development which attract wildlife.”

Ten homes are currently available for outright sale at Tudor Grange. For more information about the properties visit signaturenewhomes.co.uk or email info@signaturenewhomes.co.uk

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We’re helping transform the River Sherbourne in Coventry for wildlife and the community

Posted on August 13th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We are supporting a scheme to help transform the River Sherbourne which runs through Spon End in Coventry.

The scheme, which is being led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, will restore and celebrate the natural, built and cultural heritage of river. The river starts near Corley Moor before disappearing beneath the city in a large pipe underground.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund have awarded £253,600 to the Wildlife Trust and we have donated an extra £5,000 for the project.

Our Director of Regeneration Services Kevin Roach said: “The funding will help develop and produce plans over the next 18 months that will propose improvements to the River Sherbourne. It will aim to reconnect the people of Coventry with the city’s river and restore the river for wildlife.

“Following the production of the plans, a further bid will be made to the National Lottery Heritage fund for a grant of around £1.8million to deliver a further four-year scheme of projects focused on the river in Coventry.

“We have become involved in this project because a critical element of the Spon End regeneration is to enhance the environment and green space for residents, the river is a hidden jewel that runs through the Spon End estate and as such will be a focal point to achieving this key objective”

A key element of the scheme is to raise awareness of the existing natural and built heritage already present on the river.

These are two Grade 2 listed bridges – one scheduled monument (a single span bridge), and locally listed sluice gates that span the river. The ruins of an old chapel sit adjacent to it in Spon End.

These, and other features go largely un-noticed to people who pass by during their busy lives. The scheme will aim to safeguard, restore and interpret these features to help the people of Coventry be proud of their river.

The scheme will also develop an extensive volunteer and events programme designed to enable local people to develop a sense of ownership for their river. Working with community groups and schools, people from across Coventry and further afield will benefit from a revitalised River Sherbourne.

Kevin added: “The section of the River Sherbourne that runs through Spon End is currently overgrown and not accessible for residents to enjoy. The project aims to bring this area of Spon End back to life for residents, and its wildlife, to enjoy and in turn improve their quality of life and wellbeing.”

Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust Ian Jelley said: “We’re are absolutely thrilled with the news the National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting this scheme.  We have been working in partnership with local people for over five years developing ideas and this investment enables us to make a real impact on the ground.  2020 is Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s 50th anniversary, and with next year being City of Culture, this is excellent timing. We are really excited at what this scheme could deliver for people and wildlife in Coventry.”

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We’re investing £255,000 to fit out 70 re-let homes at the Fresh Start standard

Posted on August 12th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We’re committed to investing £255,000 to fit out 70 re-let homes at the Fresh Start standard over the next six months.

Our Fresh Start project is a pioneering project to let our homes at a new, higher standard giving our new customers a foundation for life.

These 70 homes are our existing bedsits throughout Coventry, which are some of our hardest to let properties. 

Work will start in September 2020 with 35 of these homes having new flooring and fresh decoration and 35 having new flooring and white goods to help us really understand the impact these added benefits have for our customers.

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 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 Fresh Start in ten of our homes in October 2019.

It followed a project which was led by an in-house team who 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.

Our next pilot will test some elements of this standard to provide more robust data which will inform future investment.

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We join the Royal British Legion and National Memorial Arboretum to create VJ Day activity packs

Posted on August 11th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Following the success of the activity packs that we helped to create for Victory in Europe (VE) Day, we are now launching more packs, helping our customers and staff commemorate Victory Over Japan (VJ) Day.

We are working with the Royal British Legion, the National Memorial Arboretum and a group of housing associations including Housing21, Anchor Hanover and Orbit so people can find out more about the hugely significant day in a fun and interactive way.

The 75th anniversary of VJ Day will be commemorated on August 15 and it marks the end of fighting in the Second World War.

As some restrictions are still in place, we have created the packs so that the day can be easily commemorated from home. The packs include facts, recipes and games.

Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale said: “The packs we released for VE Day were incredibly successful and we are delighted to team up with the Royal British Legion, National Memorial Arboretum and other housing associations to mark the anniversary of VJ Day, despite social restrictions.

“The 75th anniversary of VJ Day is a significant occasion as it marks 75 years since the end of fighting in the Second World War – this is an incredibly important moment in our history and something our older customers may remember.

“We want to help people remember the contribution of all British, Commonwealth and Allied forces made, without whom the freedoms and way of life we enjoy today would not have been possible.

“We’re proud to be involved in creating these packs again and we hope they will be as well received as our VE Day packs.”

Head of Participation and Learning at the National Memorial Arboretum, Chris Ansell, said: “VJ Day is often overshadowed by VE Day, and the service given by diverse forces who served in the Far East is too often overlooked.

“The activity packs are a great way to pay tribute to the entire Second World War generation, both military and civilian, who served and sacrificed on our behalf. They include great opportunities for people to learn, have fun and remember what happened on VJ Day.”

Just click below to download the packs and get involved.

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New homes handed over to residents across Coventry

Posted on August 10th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Work on a £5.5m project to build 45 new affordable homes in four locations has been completed and properties handed over to residents.

We contracted with Seddon on the developments which are made up of shared ownership homes and affordable rent.

The four sites include:

Our Director of Development Richard Whittaker said: “At Citizen we are committed to building new, affordable and desirable homes across key locations across in the West Midlands.

“These sites in Coventry have been completed to the highest standard by Seddon, who are one of our framework partners, helping us fulfil the need for homes for rent or sale that people can truly afford.

“We hope the people who have moved into the homes enjoy living there.”

Joy Folami has moved into one of the houses after living in temporary accommodation. She said: “I am living here with my partner and four children. I love my house, it’s a lovely area that is quiet.

“It’s my own house and only my family have lived in it – we love that.”

Work initially started on the developments in summer 2019.

Rob Moore, Business Unit Director at Seddon, said: “Affordable homes have to be just that – available to the people who need them most in the places where they’re built.

“Our partnership-led approach to housing delivery is at the heart of what we do at Seddon. These four sites are part of a successful relationship we’ve built with Citizen, which is committed to addressing the issue of affordable housing head on – an aim we embody at Seddon.

“Working closely with Citizen from the outset on any development, we are able to identify what types of homes are needed and bring them to people with minimal disruption, high craftsmanship and low cost.”

In December 2019, Seddon also started work on an innovative £2.1m project for us to turn unused space in existing buildings into 36 new social rent homes across Coventry, Birmingham and Worcester, which was also commissioned through the framework.

It is intended to benefit the communities where projects are delivered, from local labour and apprenticeships, to community projects and reinvestment into areas.

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Our Development Team are shortlisted for two Constructing Excellence Midlands awards

Posted on August 6th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We are delighted to announce that our Development, Regeneration and Sales Team have been shortlisted for the Digital Construction and Client of the Year awards at this year’s Constructing Excellence West Midlands awards.

The Constructing Excellence Midlands awards recognise best practice in the West Midlands and demonstrates how construction plays a vital role in shaping our country for future generations.

The team made the shortlist for the Digital Construction award for their adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) within affordable housing and the Client of the Year award recognises our collaborative approach with contractors to deliver real value throughout the region.

Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “It’s fantastic to be recognised for all the team’s hard work at the Constructing Excellence Midlands awards this year.

“As a team we are always committed to delivering real value and good quality homes throughout the region.

“Well done everyone involved. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for the awards ceremony in December!”

The Constructing Excellence Midlands awards are taking place on December 10 at the Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham.

Find out more about the awards and the shortlist now.

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