December 2018

VPS Garden Advisors

December tips

Garden Tips for December

10 Jobs to do this month

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

November 2018

VPS Garden Advisors

November Gardening Tips

Garden Tips for November

10 Jobs to do this month

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

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

VPS Garden Advisors

October Gardening Tips

Garden Tips for October

10 Jobs to do this month

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

September

VPS Garden Advisors

September Gardening Tips

Garden Tips for September

10 Jobs to do this month

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

Multi-million investment plans for Grove Court

Thrive Homes is consulting with residents regarding ambitious plans to make multi-million improvements to its sheltered scheme at Grove Court in Croxley Green.

The housing association is proposing to invest £10 million in demolishing and rebuilding Grove Court to provide more high quality, well designed new-build homes which are better suited to the needs of current residents and new customers.

Grove Court was built nearly 50 years ago and is no longer suited to the style of modern living enjoyed by older people today. The sheltered scheme provides predominantly bedsit accommodation which is now outdated and in need of much improvement. Increasingly, older residents are preferring to stay in mainstream accommodation with individual tailored support arrangements.

Up to 50 affordable rent apartments are planned, built to the Lifetime Homes Standard which ensures properties are accessible and inclusive so older people can stay in their homes for longer. Special design features are incorporated to improve comfort and convenience, such as wider doorways and level thresholds, to support the changing needs of residents throughout their life.

All the apartments will have their own independent outdoor space.

Details of the proposal have been shared with residents who will be guaranteed one of the new, modern apartments. Thrive will help residents to find a suitable alternative home while the building work is being carried out and will help to make the moving process as straightforward as possible. All those affected will receive a home loss payment plus free professional removals and disturbance costs.

Thrive will be meeting all residents on a one-to-one basis to explain more about the proposal and to answer questions and alleviate any concerns.

Initial plans are being submitted to Three Rivers District Council in November, with a view to work starting on site in Spring 2020.

Thrive Homes is dedicated to providing good quality affordable homes and services, and its properties are continuously in high demand. However, its bedsits and one-bedroom flats at Grove Court have been proving difficult to let, reflecting the changing needs of older people. The new, modern scheme will be designed to enable independent living in an inclusive environment.

Jack Burnham, Development Director at Thrive Homes, commented: “Grove Court is in need of major improvement and we believe an ambitious £10 million investment is the way forward. At the moment we are in the early stages of developing our plans, but it is important that we engage with our residents from the outset and keep them fully informed and involved.

“We appreciate and understand the disruption that this proposal will cause, however, our significant investment in Grove Court will maximise independence and quality of life for residents today and in the future.

“We hope that the Council will work with us to provide these much improved and much needed homes for all in the area.”

Thrive does not currently have plans to redevelop any of its other schemes which have all been built to different specifications to meet the varying requirements of residents.

More information is available in our leaflet about Grove Court Improvements

July

VPS Garden Advisors

Gardening Tips July

Garden Tips for July

10 Jobs to do this month

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