Thrive Homes unveils first new development in Hemel Hempstead

12th March  2019

Thrive Homes unveils first new development in Hemel Hempstead

Thrive has opened its first development of new homes in Hemel Hempstead.

The three-storey apartment block at Swallow Fields is the first of a number of new housing schemes we are developing in the Dacorum borough, as part of a £20 million investment to provide more affordable homes in the area.

Part of a larger development off Three Cherry Trees Lane, the Thrive complex comprises nine homes – a mix of one and two-bedroom apartments – for rent to local people.

Representatives from Thrive Homes and Dacorum Borough Council recently gathered to officially open the scheme (5th March).

Dacorum Borough Council leader Councillor Andrew Williams and Deputy Leader Councillor Margaret Griffiths joined Thrive Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie and Thrive Chair Ashley Lane to celebrate the occasion.

Councillor Williams said: “I am delighted to be celebrating the opening of these new homes. This also marks the beginning of a stronger relationship between Dacorum Borough Council and Thrive Homes.

“Following Thrive’s recent move to Hemel Hempstead, we hope to develop this relationship further to deliver more much-needed affordable new homes for local people.”

Thrive Chair Ashley Lane said: “We are thrilled to unveil our first new homes in Dacorum and are looking forward to welcoming our new residents at Swallow Fields.

“Partnership working  is key to everything we do, so we are very pleased to have forged close links with Dacorum Borough Council during the course of this project.

“We moved our head office to Dacorum late last year as a sign of our commitment to the borough, and look forward to continuing to work with the council to build more homes in the area for many years to come.”

Residents will be moving into the new Thrive homes over coming weeks. The apartments have been finished to a high standard, with all carpets and appliances to be gifted to their new residents.

Thrive is currently planning its second new housing development in Dacorum – Two Waters, near the centre of Hemel Hempstead, which will comprise 36 homes for shared ownership.

Celebrating the opening of the Swallow Fields scheme are (left to right) Thrive Homes Development Director Jack Burnham, Thrive Chair Ashley Lane, Councillor Andrew Williams,  Thrive Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie, Councillor Margaret Griffiths and Thrive Operations Director Jo Barrett.

 


Thrive Homes named one of UK’s top places to work

Thrive Homes has been named one of the top 25 housing associations to work for in the UK.

We were rated the 15th best housing association employer in the country in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For 2019 list.

A new entrant in the top 25 housing association rankings, Thrive won its place due to various colleague engagement initiatives which build team spirit, offer a fair deal to staff and promote charity work.

A shift to more digital ways of working has played its part in improving employee satisfaction, including the success of Workplace by Facebook as an interactive collaborative tool for colleagues, introduction of electronic filing and adoption of an agile working policy.

The policy has offered employees more flexible working options such as opportunities to work from home, which has reduced the need for staff to travel.

Thrive was also recognised for its charitable work, including the ‘Thrive Give’ initiative which encourages colleagues to give their time and support to good causes. The scheme allows every staff member to spend one paid working day a year taking part in volunteering activities for local community projects.

‘Best Companies’ judges highlighted the motivating effect of Thrive’s staff rewards too, such as personal thank-you cards from the Chief Executive, the Big Birthday Breakfast and £50 online shopping vouchers for employees to celebrate the organisation’s 10th anniversary.

Overall, Thrive was ranked 53rd in the ‘not-for-profit organisations’ category of the 100 Best Companies to Work For listings, up from its 73rd placing last year.

The annual rankings – which are based on the views of staff – recognise the UK’s best employers, those who go the extra mile to create a thriving workplace where their employees can flourish.

Thrive Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie said: “Any organisation is only as good as the people who make up the team so, at Thrive, we pride ourselves on valuing, nurturing and rewarding our employees.

“By giving a fair deal to our staff, encouraging colleague engagement and running schemes which give something back to our communities and the environment, we aim to bring out the very best in our people, developing their talents while making Thrive a great place to work.”


Building a brighter future through tough times

 

In her latest blog Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie discusses the need for continuing, varied development to tackle formidable challenges confronting the housing sector.

As the Brexit debate rages on while the global economy faces turbulent times, there is no doubt that much uncertainty and potential challenges lie ahead. No sector will be untouched, least of all the world of housing.

There is talk of a deepening crisis within the housing market, with possible high inflation and high interest rates post-Brexit affecting home seekers’ ability to buy properties and then sustain their purchases.

Added to that is the desperate shortage of affordable homes, as flagged up in a recent report by Shelter. The charity says three million new social homes must be built in England over 20 years to solve the housing crisis.

That pressure for decent, affordable homes will surely only increase in a tough financial climate. We can’t escape the reality that, if people don’t feel confident enough to buy their own home, they will still need somewhere to live.

In the face of these economic challenges, it is vital that we continue to build new affordable homes, but it is equally important to recognise the range of need for good quality housing at different price points.

So a crucial element of any development plan must be to ensure we offer a variety of different products, including affordable rent, shared ownership and rent to buy – and, here at Thrive, we are doing just that.

Agile response to change

In recent times we have stepped up Thrive’s development programme, currently meeting and sustaining our target to build at least 100 new homes each year. One of our strategic aims is to more than double in size, growing our housing stock from 5,000 to 10,000, by 2028.

Our work in this area is showcased in a new Development Yearbook which we have produced to celebrate the achievements of Thrive’s first decade, as well as our future ambitions.

I am delighted that our housebuilding plans continue apace, having just appointed contractors for our first land-led project – a development of 36 homes at Two Waters, in Hemel Hempstead. We also soon start building work on our biggest site to date, a 10-storey complex of 90 apartments in St Albans Road, Watford.

These and other schemes in the pipeline will also contribute to diversifying our housing offer, providing homes of varying tenures such as shared ownership and market rent.

However, recognising the uncertainty of our future housing market, we have ensured Thrive has the financial resilience to remain agile and flexible enough to respond to varying demand so that, if necessary, products can be adapted to meet changing need.

It is true that the current climate calls for careful navigation through a potentially difficult market. Social and affordable housing providers must take a sensible, sensitive approach to what we do. But we can’t afford to just ‘shut up shop’ – after all, people have still got to live somewhere.

In such an operating environment, there is of course a continuing requirement for landlords to ensure they maintain and manage their stock responsibly. At the same time, I believe we should still be building new homes for more people.

Access to basic fundamentals like a decent home is something which gives people a stake in society and makes them feel they are part of a wider community – and, when there is so much tension and division in the UK and beyond, surely that is needed now more than ever.


December 2018

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Thanks to the Grounds Maintenance team at VPS Grounds Services for this seasonal advice.


November 2018

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Hertfordshire housing association builds on success with Lloyds Bank

Hertfordshire based housing association, Thrive Homes, has secured a £50million funding package from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking to support its plans to build 1,000 new homes and grow its portfolio by a quarter by 2021.

As part of that growth, Thrive Homes is set to build over 150 homes on recently acquired land in Watford and Hemel Hempstead. These new developments will offer a range of high quality homes that will be affordable to a variety of prospective new customers.

Lloyds Bank provided a tailored finance package by utilising its £500million Social Housing fund which was announced earlier this year to help fund the growth and these schemes in particular. The package included a £25million loan and a £25million revolving credit facility. This will allow the organisation to release funds on a flexible basis to be able to invest in future projects.

Thrive Homes, established in 2008, currently has over 5,000 homes in management and construction across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The organisation employs 102 people and has an annual turnover of £26million.

Shaun McLean, Resources Director at Thrive Homes, said: “This year marks our 10th anniversary and it seemed fitting to celebrate by committing to build even more high-quality and affordable homes”.

“Our land-led schemes form part of the first step of our ambitious plan, and by 2021 we hope to develop 1,000 more homes for people across the South of England. Now is the ideal time to invest in more homes. The recent announcement by Theresa May has boosted support for our sector and recognised the important role housing associations can play in tackling the current housing crisis.

“We first approached Lloyds Bank to secure a more flexible way of funding our operations. The team took the time to fully understand our business plan, and as a result was able to provide a finance package that was exactly suited to our needs.”

Christopher Hudson, Associate Director at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Organisations like Thrive Homes are playing a vital role in addressing the UK’s housing shortfall, developing lively and diverse communities in highly sought-after areas. We recognise Thrive Homes, as a strong, forward-thinking organisation and one which we are proud to build a new relationship with.

“Research by Heriot-Watt University has revealed that the country needs to build more than 140,000 affordable homes every year until 2031 to successfully tackle the current housing crisis.

“We recognise to achieve this figure housing associations need the tailored funding to succeed. This is why we’re helping organisations to prosper by making available £750million of new funding to associations across the sector this year as part of our wider Helping Britain Prosper pledge to provide £2.25billion of funding between 2018 and 2020.”


Council secures two closure orders in Curtis Close

Three Rivers District Council in partnership with Hertfordshire Police and Thrive Homes have been successful in securing an extension to two Closure Orders in Curtis Close, Mill End last week.

Evidence of a high level of crime and disorder at the properties led to the Closure Orders being granted. An initial closure order was obtained from St Albans Magistrates Court for a three-month period. The Council has now successfully obtained an extension for a further three months which expires in February 2019. The properties will remain closed to the tenants and public.

Roger Seabourne, Lead member for Community Safety, said: “Three Rivers Community Safety Partnership work extremely close with their partner agencies and members of the public in ensuring that they use their powers to demonstrate the determination of protecting our communities and those most vulnerable.

“We welcome this closure order as the activity in this property was seriously affecting the quality of life of residents living in homes nearby. Obtaining this closure order shows the value of partnership working and sends out a clear message that anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated in our district.”

Please continue to report Anti-social behaviour on the non-emergency Police number 101 – in an emergency 999 or Three Rivers District Council via enquiries@threerivers.gov.uk.

Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced, and you will never need to go to court.


Three Rivers secures another closure

Three Rivers District Council in partnership with Hertfordshire Police and Thrive Homes have secured a Closure Order at Barn Lea, Mill End Rickmansworth.

Three Rivers Community Safety Partnership gathered evidence in support of the Order, which was granted by the Magistrates last week, preventing anyone other than the tenant and their support services from entering for a period of three months. Anyone breaching the order can be arrested. This was following persistent and continuous anti-social and disorderly behaviour at the premises.

Cllr Roger Seabourne, Lead Member for Community Safety, said “Three Rivers District Council is committed to taking action against ASB, crime and disorder including cuckooing by working in partnership with the community, the Police and Housing Providers. These closure orders demonstrate the determination of our Community Safety Partnership to protect our communities”.

Three Rivers Community Safety Partnership will continue to take action against those suspected of being involved in drug dealing, crime and cuckooing. Cuckooing (sometimes linked to County Lines) is the term used to describe the activities of individuals and gangs who travel to towns and take over vulnerable people’s homes to deal drugs. In the majority of Closure cases in Three Rivers the cuckooing has taken place by known individuals to the tenant. As of the 2010s, cuckooing is becoming an increasingly common problem in the South of England and in many cases, with cuckooing comes an increase in anti-social behaviour:

  • continuous visitors to a property
  • drug paraphernalia and littering
  • noise nuisance into the early hours of the morning
  • disorderly behaviour.

Leader of The Council, Sara Bedford said: “We thank the local community in supporting us, we also thank the Hertfordshire Police and Thrive Homes partnership. We want people to continue to report their concerns about their neighbours, friends or relatives who may have become victimised in this way. It is vital that the public continue to work with us so that we can take action to safeguard the person, investigate those people who have taken over their home and continue to build up intelligence.”

Please report Anti-social behaviour on the non-emergency Police number 101 – in an emergency 999 or Three Rivers District Council on enquiries@threerivers.gov.uk

Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 anonymously or via www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced, and you will never need to go to court.


‘New deal’ shies away from tough questions


In her latest blog, Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie reflects on the recent Social Housing Green Paper and whether it was a missed opportunity for real reform.

I think we all had high hopes of the long-awaited Social Housing Green Paper, which promised a ‘new deal’ for the sector and ‘fundamental reform’.

But, having scrutinised its detail and listened to some of the initial reactions to it, I feel the document falls far short.

Although it raises important issues around safety and tenant engagement, I found it disappointing in that it shies away from asking some fundamental, difficult questions facing the sector.

What struck me first and foremost was that, for a document which former housing secretary Sajid Javid described as a ‘wide-ranging review’, it has failed to go back to first principles – and, instead, is based on a series of unchallenged ‘givens’.

It skirts around some core issues, such as the tension that exists between the cost of providing and maintaining good quality homes but which are let at low, fixed rents. There is no real engagement with the basic economics of this.

And, although the green paper refers to discussion with tenants, there has been no involvement with wider society around questions such as what is appropriate social housing provision, how should it be funded and how to manage expectations.

It seems to me that the paper is missing the point of where we are at, socially and economically. There has been a shift in the government’s position on social provision, indicated by its continued support for welfare reform. But this paper seems to be a lost opportunity to enter into a similar debate around another key aspect of the welfare safety net – a home.

Lack of balance

Another aspect of the green paper that I found disappointing was its focus on ‘bad’ landlords, an emphasis on housing providers who fall short and need to be held to account through tighter regulation and controls.

No-one would argue that such poor performance is acceptable but, in my experience, the social housing sector is a very compliant one which closely adheres to the regulations and restrictions placed upon it.

So, when the paper suggests that standards for our sector should be equivalent to those for the private rented sector, I was shocked. Anyone who thinks private landlords are more compliant than social landlords is not in the real world.

I believe there should, indeed, be a set of standards for the building and maintenance of properties which applies to the whole of the rented sector, both social and private.

But the problem is that, in the social housing sector, we have one hand tied behind our backs. For instance, the government will not give us powers of access to carry out vital inspections such as annual gas safety checks.

We also need building standards that we can rely on to cover fire safety so, for instance, we can trust a fire door to be stringently tested by the manufacturer.

It appears to me that the government is trying to tackle issues where it knows it can get a result – but that means the green paper is not a balanced view of what needs to be addressed.

The paper states ‘we also want to empower residents, to give them the tools they need to hold their landlords to account’. That is absolutely right. But, from the landlords’ point of view, we need to be equipped with all the tools to do our job properly too.

So, is the green paper really challenging enough? I would suggest not. Unless we get some sort of agreement on basic fundamental issues within the sector, I suspect we are merely generating higher expectations, cost and opportunities for disappointment.


October 2018

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October Gardening Tips

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Thanks to the Grounds Maintenance team at VPS Grounds Services for this seasonal advice.