North Star Housing Group ranked among UK’s Best Companies to work for

Staff at North Star Housing Group are celebrating after being named as one of The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work For, having been awarded 14th place at a glittering awards ceremony in London this week.

As well as the top 20 accolade, North Star was also awarded Best Companies 3 Star Accreditation – the highest accreditation level available. The rankings and awards are based entirely on employee feedback and identify how employees contribute to their company’s success and growth, setting a benchmark for other employers. The 3 Star Accreditation is only awarded to organisations assessed as ‘extraordinary’.

Group chief executive, Angela Lockwood, said:

“We’re immensely proud to have been awarded 14th place. This is an excellent achievement, especially when you consider the fantastic other companies in the Top 100 List – it’s a tough competition. Every year the prestige of this list builds, making this the competition that every organisation wants to be involved in. North Star staff are passionate about what they do and they take and active role in shaping the future of North Star. This award is testament to their hard work and commitment.”

As well as providing affordable housing across the North East and North Yorkshire, North Star Housing Group has a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, actively supporting and funding local community projects, in order to help local neighbourhoods to develop and become more resilient.

Assistant director of people services, Carole Richardson, said: “We are over the moon with the award. This achievement is testament to the extraordinary levels of engagement and commitment from the people who work at North Star and the Group’s investment in our staff. Our culture is a massive part of what makes us successful. We provide vital services to local people, so it’s essential that staff are involved in influencing our approach and feel positive and empowered in the workplace.”

This is not the first year that North Star has taken part in the Best Companies survey. After securing 1 Star Accreditation in 2011 and 2012, the leap to 3 Stars in 2015 is a great accolade for the Housing Group.

For more information, the full Sunday Times 100 Best Companies list and profiles of each company will be available at www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/best100companies from 15th March.

Regenda turns old factory into affordable new homes

A derelict Cheshire paper factory has been transformed into a stylish new housing development.

The first families have begun moving into West Avenue in Crewe where the Regenda Group housing association has turned an eyesore brownfield site into eye-catching houses and flats.

The properties are being offered at affordable rents, allowing local families to move from poor quality private rented accommodation into modern homes.

Warehouse worker Mike Dean, his partner Natasha Bourne and their two children Liam, aged three and one year-old Skye, were the first to collect the keys to their new home.

“We’ve moved from an old two bed terraced house with a yard to a lovely new three bed house with a garden and still saved money on our rent. It’s a new start for us, somewhere where the children can grow up and the other great thing is we can stay living in the area,” said Mike.

Regenda already manages more than 800 homes either for rent or shared ownership in Cheshire East and hopes to build more in the future.

Councillor Don Stockton, Cheshire East Council’s cabinet member for housing and jobs, said: “These excellent homes will help meet the needs of the local area. Cheshire East Council is very pleased to have supported this development, which has removed an eyesore of a derelict factory and created affordable, attractive and well-designed homes on a brownfield site.”

The official ceremony to mark the handover of the two three-bedroom houses and six, one and two bedroom flats, was attended by the Mayor of Cheshire East, Cllr Wesley Fitzgerald.

High-spec new homes for Hebburn residents

A dozen elderly residents from South Tyneside are glad to be settling into high specification, highly insulated new bungalows at the coldest time of the year.

The £1.3m Isos development on Derwent Avenue in Hebburn has only recently been completed, with residents able to move into their new homes last month.

Located on the site of the former St. James Church Parish Hall, the new £1.3m development consists of 12 high quality two-bedroom bungalows, which have been built by developer Keepmoat Homes in partnership with South Tyneside Council.

The bungalows meet Level 3 of the Government’s Code for Sustainable Homes and include features such as improved insulation in walls, windows and the roof, and recycling and waste management measures. Each bungalow includes car parking and a private rear garden.

The land for development was acquired from the Roman Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) contributed more than £300,000 of funding towards the new development.

Lea Smith, development and regeneration manager for Isos, said:

“This is a wonderful little scheme located just off the main road with access to major bus routes and a range of small convenience shops nearby. Most of the residents that have moved into Derwent Avenue have re-located from the local area. That means their former homes can be re-let to others in need of high quality housing.”

Ian Prescott, land and partnerships director from developer Keepmoat Homes, said: “We are delighted to have worked in partnership with Isos and South Tyneside Council to deliver these new homes for local people. We know that bungalows of this nature, grouped around small private courtyards and close to local facilities, are in huge demand.

“We were pleased to secure the purchase of the site from the Diocese with whom we have an excellent working relationship. We hope that the residents of the bungalows will be happy and safe in their new homes for many years to come.”

Cllr. Allan West, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for housing and transport, said: “What better way to start the New Year than by getting the keys to a fantastic new property. I’m sure all the residents will be proud to call these bungalows home.

“This development will provide high quality homes to meet the long term needs and aspirations of older people in the borough. The properties have been allocated to households on the Council’s waiting list.”

Refurbished homes offer tenants independent living

Newly refurbished sheltered accommodation offering an independent lifestyle has been officially opened in Leeds.

Ingram Court in Holbeck has benefited from a substantial make-over by sc4L as part of the council’s housing regeneration project.

Built in 1976, the building has now undergone a major transformation to provide 23 modern apartments for over sixties.

Tenants are taking up residence in one of three wheelchair accessible, assisted living two-bedroomed flats, 13 one-bedroomed apartments or seven two-bedroomed flats.

Offering a caring and supportive environment, Ingram Court will help people over 60 maintain an independent lifestyle for as long as possible.

Having officially opened Ingram Court today, Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said:

“It’s not just important to provide council housing but housing that supports people’s needs.

“The total remodel of Ingram Court means that we now have a bright, modern, comfortable environment that will give people their independence with the reassurance of help should they need it.

“Central to our housing regeneration project is the drive to improve the lives of local residents which Ingram Court will undoubtedly deliver.”

Jon Hinchliff, sc4L General Manager, said:

“One of the most rewarding aspects of working on a scheme like the housing regeneration project is making a positive difference to the neighbourhoods and communities living here.

“It’s been lovely to welcome residents moving in to Ingram Court and we wish them well in their new home.”

Sean Corcoran, Keepmoat Regional Director, said:

“This has been a very successful scheme for Keepmoat. The complex has had a complete makeover including some of the one bedroomed flats converted into two bedrooms. Externally we have created raised beds to grow vegetables and we look forward to working with the new tenants to produce a full crop.”

Ingram Court’s revised layout now houses 23 self-contained flats that benefit from new kitchens, windows and doors, heating system, roof and newly installed security system. Flexibility is also built in with each flat having a wet floor shower room that can be adapted with a bath and hoist if needed in the future to suit peoples’ needs.

Residents can enjoy the landscaped gardens with raised beds for planting their own vegetables. Inside they can join friends in the communal sitting area or take time out in the quiet room.

The flats at Ingram Court are being let through the Leeds Home scheme. To be considered, you must have an application registered on the Leeds Homes Register and express an interest by placing a bid for an Ingram Court flat.

Leeds City Council are still offering grants of up to 30% toward the costs of capital schemes. For further information email james.kilroy@leeds.gov.uk.

Passenger Lifts framework evaluation completed

passenger-lifts-w-logosConsortium Procurement have completed the evaluation of the Passenger Lifts, Stairlifts, (including ceiling track hoists) and Escalators Framework and are now in the process of contracting with the following successful supply partners:

  • ANSA Elevators
  • Britton Price Ltd
  • Dunbar and Boardman
  • EA Foulds
  • Express Elevators
  • KONE
  • Lift and Engineering Services
  • MAND Pls
  • Morris Vermaport
  • Stannah

Members will be able to call off from the 2nd March, however we are able to discuss your bespoke requirements in advance of this date. The specification for this framework is attached for information. If you would like to arrange a meeting with your dedicated account executive please contact us on 0191 566 1000 or email solutions@consortiumprocurement.org.uk.

Consortium Procurement to appear at Procurex North

Representatives from Consortium Procurement will be at this year’s Procurex North.

Procurex North Live is provides a unique platform for all personnel – both buyer and supplier – engaged within the public procurement marketplace to enhance their understanding and knowledge of the latest developments, initiatives, and legislative changes taking place within this evolving sector.

This year’s event will take place at Manchester Central on 26 February. You can find out more information about Procurex North here.

In addition to Procurex North, the team will also be visiting the CIH South East Conference and Exhibition at the beginning of March.

Discretionary Housing Payment Allocations announced

On 30th January 2015, the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) announced the value of the Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) for local authorities. The circular gave details of the government contribution and overall expenditure limit for DHPs for local authorities in the financial year 2015 to 2016.

The overall funding for 2015/16 is £125 million. This comprises of funding for support areas of:

  • Core funding (£15m)
  • Local Housing Allowance (LHA) (£25m)
  • Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (RSRS) (£60m)
  • Benefit cap (£25m)

The government has previously committed to maintaining the level of funding to support those affected by the RSRS and this will remain at £60 million.

As the table below shows, from the total, £29.3 million will be made available to local authorities in the three northern regions to administer. This represents 23.5% of the total allocation and a reduction of 16.3% on the 2014/15 allocation compared to an overall reduction of 24.5%. Regional analysis carried out by Northern Housing Consortium shows that by comparing allocations with the number of households (2014 estimates), the average allocation per household in Britain is £4.70, the figure in the north is £4.65 with Yorkshire and the Humber’s figure at £3.99. This compares with London’s allocation of £10.06 per household.

DHP allocations breakdown
RegionGovernment ContributionOverall limit (2.5x)Households 2014Government contribution/no. of h’holds%change
North East£5,898,965£14,747,417975,749£6.05-9.3%
North West£14,342,888£35,857,2283,047,250£4.71-18.2%
Yorkshire and the Humber£9,132,816£22,832,0452,288,745£3.99-17.4%
East Midlands£6,199,435£15,498,6002,034,423£3.05-15.5%
East of England£7,907,841£19,769,6152,602,293£3.04-23.8%
London£33,279,938£83,199,8553,309,570£10.06-35.5%
South East£11,050,941£27,627,3673,728,320£2.96-31.5%
South West£6,884,479£17,211,2082,405,232£2.86-24.0%
West Midlands£10,272,154£25,680,3972,461,046£4.17-19.3%
Scotland£13,331,287£-2,401,798£5.55-12.5%
Wales£6,699,256£16,748,1451,318,569£5.08-15.1%
All North£29,374,669£73,436,6901,318,569£4.65-16.3%
Total£125,000,000£279,171,87726,572,995£4.70-24.5%

In terms of the northern local authorities, as the map below shows, seven northern local authorities had a contribution to household ratio of over £7 whereas lower ratios appear to be concentrated in North Yorkshire and parts of Lancashire.

DHP contributions by number of households

DHP contributions by number of households

If you would like more information on the data in this article or if you would like to discuss how Northern Housing Consortium can help you with your data analysis needs, contact Barry Turnbull at barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk.

Cambridge University research around the role of housing and housing providers in tackling poverty experienced by young people

The Northern Housing Consortium would like to see some of the great work members are doing in tackling poverty among young people to be showcased as part of a piece of research Cambridge University are currently carrying out around The Role of Housing and Housing Providers in Tackling Poverty Experienced by Young People. The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is being carried out by the research team at the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research.

The team are currently trying to find out more about innovative or new ideas in tackling poverty being undertaken by housing providers, and are asking organisations to complete a short online survey to inform them about projects across the sector. The team is also hoping that some will be willing to be case studies – which will give them an opportunity to have some of their work included in an evaluation and the opportunity to share good practice with others working in the field.

A total of 10 case studies will be selected with a focus on emerging practice that is innovative or offers potential new ways to tackle poverty. This could include (though is not limited to):

  • Reducing rents or other costs associated with housing (such as utility bills).
  • Reducing other expenditure of poor households, focusing on debt management as servicing debt repayments can take up a large part of disposable incomes in poor households. Some schemes also help people to give up smoking, improve DIY skills and budget to make money go further.
  • Increasing incomes by helping people into work or training.
  • Locating housing near to jobs, and/or prioritising such housing for those in employment, such as central London worker schemes.
  • Increasing the capacity for unsupported and supported independent housing.
  • Facilitating access to housing for young people, such as PRS access schemes or tenancy-sustainment work.
  • Tackling the wider factors that are both causes and consequences of poverty such as ill-heath, poor housing conditions or low educational attainment.

Cambridge have set up a survey to collect the examples of models being delivered to tackle youth poverty amongst young people, which you can access here.

Cambridge has intentionally left their call for ideas pretty broad at this stage as they are seeking a broad set of examples of what is being done in different places to help tackle poverty. The examples they have suggested are where housing providers are providing budgeting advice to help young people make their money to go further, offering cheaper forms of housing (e.g. shared housing models), and schemes to help young people save for rent deposits.

Please complete the survey through the above link and if possible please send Satty Rai a copy of your responses. We are keen to hear of the different approaches adopted by members to tackle poverty.

NHC and Incommunities launch their first household store

Incommunities officially opens its first ever Smarterbuys Store this week offering essential household items at great affordable prices (30th January).

The store is based in the ground floor ‘high street’ location of City House in Bradford city centre and has been developed in partnership with the Northern Housing Consortium. It is also supported by the social purpose bank, the Charity Bank who support thousands of good causes.

Smarterbuys offers affordable credit facilities for all Incommunities’ customers and is an alternative to turning to high cost lenders and loan sharks.

It is conveniently located so customers can also access local housing services and community banking facilities provided by Bradford District Credit Union.

Local Government Minister and Keighley MP, Kris Hopkins will cut a ceremonial ribbon at the entrance to the store to mark its official opening.

It is the first time a Yorkshire and Humberside housing association has launched a Smarterbuys retail outlet for its customers.

The store sells everything from white goods such as washing machines, cookers and fridges to televisions, furniture and smaller electrical items such as laptops and tablets.

There are various affordable finance options including weekly credit payment plans as well as credit and debit card facilities.

An affordability assessment and credit check is made into all applicants to ensure they can comfortably repay any loan agreed.

Products are also available for sale to the wider public.

The store has been running since September 2014 and attracts over 800 customers a week. By the end of 2014 over 160 customers had entered into loan agreements for different items.

Geraldine Howley, Incommunities Group Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be working with the Northern Housing Consortium and the Charity Bank to offer this new service.

“We are committed to providing responsible financial assistance and advice to our customers, many of whom face living with tight household budgets.

“This new Smarterbuys Store provides affordable options and an invaluable alternative to getting into debt with unscrupulous high-cost lenders. It is also proving a great place to go for people moving home or looking to brighten up their own home.”

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, said:

“The opening of The Smarterbuys Store is great news for Bradford and shows that Incommunities have a real desire to make a difference to residents’ lives.

“By offering a genuine affordable alternative to high-cost lenders we can help people buy the items they need in a way that can mean they don’t have to go without other essentials or resort to loan sharks.”

Local Government Minister, Kris Hopkins, said: “I’m pleased to see Incommunities become the first housing association in the region to offer this service, right at the heart of Bradford’s city centre.

“This new initiative will enable new residents to make their property their home, and I want to see more housing associations across the country looking to see what more they can do to support their tenants.”

Customers can also shop at Smarterbuys by going online at www.incommunities.sbstore.org.