Guestblog: Abode – Back to Basics?

Building on the leadership and management training opportunities running over the next few months, the NHC has partnered with Abode – the home of education and training for the housing and community sectors, to offer three new courses designed specifically for those on the frontline of housing management. Here, Abode training consultants Gill Bramfitt and Claire Harvey talk us through why, when it comes to the housing sector, now is the time to get back to basics.

In recent months the housing sector has seen a renewed focus on what could be considered the bread and butter of housing management. Those core features that make up the landlord-tenant relationship that may have been taken for granted in the past have now returned to the forefront. While all housing associations have responded to organisational challenges in ways which meet their own individual circumstances, all agree it is more important than ever that rents are collected effectively, arrears kept to a minimum, voids turned around quickly, and repairs carried out efficiently.

On top of this, a new Parliament means housing management officers are again faced with getting to grips with new and evolving legislation. This means not only having to make sense of policies before implementing them, but having to explain them to tenants and customers. Welfare Reform for example, has many implications for allocations, arrears and support staff, while the range of new tenancy types and the obligations placed on landlords can leave heads spinning.

It is vital that frontline staff have the knowledge and skills to tackle these potential obstacles. Organisations will know the importance of ensuring that legislation is interpreted correctly, policies comply with requirements and are less open to challenge, all without impacting on levels of customer satisfaction. Well-trained, knowledgeable employees will also have the confidence to implement these changes and deliver good quality services in an increasingly pressurised environment.

Working with the NHC, we have developed a range of courses to meet these needs. Delivered throughout November and December, these sessions will equip staff and supervisors with the knowledge and skills to meet current and future challenges.

Our first course, Introduction to Providing Housing Services, delivers exactly that. Looking at the different types of housing organisations in the UK, the diverse range of services they provide, and the financial and regulatory environment in which they exist, this course is ideal for anyone looking to gain a background knowledge of affordable housing provision in this country.

Similarly, Tenancy Management Essentials is a primer for those wanting to ensure their knowledge of tenancy management is up to date and accurate.  Looking closely at recent legislative changes and the tenancy types they affect, this course will underline the responsibilities of landlords and tenants as well as discussing issues such as terminating tenancies and dealing with abandoned properties.

Finally, we have prepared our Developing Housing Policies and Procedures course with all those involved in the policy process in mind. This interactive half-day session will cover all stages of policy development from formulating policies and procedures, implementing them, and monitoring their effectiveness. This session will also look at the wider landscape of developing policy, from using data sources to inform strategies to knowing how and when to involve stakeholders.

Available to book now:

Introduction to Providing Housing Services – 15th November 2017, Leeds

Developing Housing Policies and Procedures – 30th November 2017, Leeds

Tenancy Management Essentials – 6th December 2017, Manchester


For further information please contact Gill Bramfitt or Claire Harvey at or call 07966 367086.

Member Showcase – YHN Goes Dutch in Newcastle

Your Homes Newcastle

The challenge of providing housing for our ageing population is often talked about in our sector and we’re all too aware of the competing factors at play when trying to meet this need.  When it comes to a deprived area in the middle of much-needed but not yet completed regeneration, the need for an innovative approach is all the more important.

Tree Top Village atriumSituated on the banks of the River Tyne, Walker was once a hub for Newcastle’s shipyard industry but in recent years has struggled to find its place in a changing social and economic environment.

Together with Newcastle City Council, we were aware of the growing need for older people’s housing in Walker but we were keen to deliver this in a way that both improved the offer for older residents and contributed to the wider regeneration of the area.

And so Tree Top Village was born.

Exclusively for people over the age of 55, Tree Top Village consists of an impressive main building offering 75 sheltered housing apartments bordered by 44 one and two bedroom homes with gardens.

One of the main inspirations for the development was Hans Becker, a Dutch architect who revolutionised older people’s living in Europe by designing housing that connects older people with the world around them and has a positive impact on health and wellbeing.  One of the central principals of Becker’s philosophy is that instead of segregating older people from the wider community we should create buildings that welcome the community in.  And that’s exactly what we’ve tried to do at Tree Top Village.

Tree Top Village lobby

At the heart of the development is a glass atrium with a lobby, restaurant, shops, museum and hair and beauty salon open to the public, providing much needed facilities, and of course employment opportunities, for people living in Tree Top Village and the surrounding areas.

We kept the principles of Becker’s “Apartments for Life” model and philosophy on human happiness at the centre of our plans which led to a building design far removed from the traditional style of sheltered housing.

Each property in Tree Top Village has its own outdoor space, whether that is a balcony, courtyard or garden, so residents can benefit from the positive impact outdoor space has on health and wellbeing.

Features inside the properties include high specification kitchens and bathrooms, spacious bedrooms and light and airy lounges, many with striking views of Newcastle’s iconic skyline.   Each of the properties can also easily be adapted to respond to a range of needs and has a level access shower, a transfer area and access to an on-site scooter store.

The layout was designed to make it easy for residents to interact with other people if they want to, whether that’s seeing what’s going on as they walk through the atrium to get to their apartment, having a chat with a neighbour in one of the communal areas or enjoying a meal in the restaurant alongside families from the wider community.  We hope that at Tree Top Village anybody who wants some company will always be able to find it.

Outside the development, the regeneration of the area continues apace, with a new primary school, much needed supermarket, redevelopment of the local park and new build projects by private developers improving the landscape of the surrounding area.

Incorporating Becker’s principles into this development required our creative heads and the need for partnership working more than ever; looking around at what is now a lively and welcoming environment  I am certain it was worth the effort and I hope we see more housing of this type in the years ahead.

David Langhorne is Your Homes Newcastle’s Assets and Development Director. For more information or to discuss this article, please contact

Guest blog: Campbell Tickell – Housing an ageing society

Housing an Ageing Society

We live in a rapidly ageing society. A girl born today has a 50% chance of reaching 100. By 2024, one in four of us will be over 60 and 2m people will be over 85. Although many will start our ‘old age’ healthy and active, we will inevitably become frailer as the growth in total life expectancy outpaces the growth in healthy life expectancy. As we live longer, more of us will suffer dementia at a time when social services are at breaking point.

A good later life depends on health, financial security and social connections. Helping people to stay well and maintain independence will improve the quality of life and reduce pressure on health services. Good housing can make a fundamental difference to health and well-being. A fifth of people aged over 65 rent their homes from a council or housing association; and one-third of housing association tenants are over 65.

The housing we provide in the future needs to be suitable for changing needs as people go through the different stages of ageing. It should be attractive, spacious and well located, safe and secure, affordable, warm in winter and comfortable in summer. And as most of our older tenants will live in general needs, we need to improve the ‘90% offer’ for those not in specialist accommodation.

To prepare for our ageing population, we must be clear who the housing is for: gathering customer data in order to understand actual future needs rather than making decisions based on assumptions and stereotypes; recognising too that demand will vary between locations. This means examining population projections based on ONS, together with income levels, health statistics, tenure and social care needs.

There are over half a million sheltered homes in the social housing sector. Those with existing specialist stock need to assess its suitability. Does it comply with HAPPI standards? Are there bedsits and shared facilities? Is there lift access and communal areas for activities? Storage for large items like wheelchairs and buggies? Access to local amenities?

The options for such homes could be to continue as sheltered, convert to older person specific housing, remodel as extra care, or use for an alternative client group. Some sites could be redeveloped for general needs; some schemes will be suitable for more than one function. Adapting general needs properties would enable many to remain in their home environment comfortably and safely.

Just as important as the physical surroundings is the support for older people. This is not just professional help, but support from peers and volunteers. Loneliness is a major problem for many older people. Enabling connections between people and facilitating informal help plays a critical role in maintaining health and well-being.

In short, a great deal needs to be done, but much can be achieved at relatively manageable cost. First and foremost, we must refocus our thinking, recognise the challenge and display imagination.

Maggie Rafalowicz is an Associate Director at Campbell Tickell. For more information or to discuss this article, please contact