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L&H Homes Annual Review 2014/15


Providing safe and affordable housing in communities where people are proud to live is at the heart of everything we do. We also work hard to deliver essential services that not only make a real difference, but also offer value for money. You can read about how we achieve Value For Money (VFM) by clicking here or continue reading through our report.

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Introduction from our Chairman, Sidney McFarlane MBE

It gives me great pleasure to introduce the L&H Homes Annual Review 2014/15.  This is your opportunity to learn more about our activities over the past 12 months.

We have continued to grow completing 326 new homes for rent and home ownership, throughout the East Midlands. That’s 90 more than last year, taking our total number of homes to over 8600.
 
We aren’t just about building homes though, we want to provide services that make a real difference to people and communities. The way we achieve this is by working closely with our staff, partners and our residents. Our programme of estate walkabouts means we can meet with you face to face, to find out what’s important in local communities, working collaboratively to achieve positive outcomes. We also continue to value your involvement through the feedback you provide, and through membership of our formal resident involvement panels.
 
The effects of Welfare Reform, including the roll out of Universal Credit  makes it more important than ever for us to change the way we do things. Through our digital strategies and a commitment to encouraging residents to get on line, we have continued to invest in My Account to help you manage your tenancy. Over 1000 of you now regularly log into My Account to check your rent statement and access information about your home.
 

Managing our resources is key to allowing us to deliver the best services possible and so we are really pleased that in our latest customer survey, 86% of felt that your rent represented value for money, placing us a top performer amongst the housing association with which we are compared. As a member of Longhurst Group we will continue to review our ways of working and seek to achieve even better outcomes in the year ahead.
 

Our Aims


Every year we set out our aims and objectives in our Business Plan to help us achieve our goals and provide you with a great service.  Our Board monitors our work to make sure that we provide quality and value for money.  Throughout this report you will be able to read about what we have achieved.  
 
We aim to:
  • Deliver a range of excellent quality affordable homes for rent and ownership
  • Deliver services which meet the needs and preferences of our customers
  • Develop innovative and effective ways to communicate with our customers and promote resident involvement
  • Demonstrate value for money in the services we deliver
  • Deliver services which support and enhance local communities
  • Maintain strong governance and financial security for our business

Service Excellence

We pride ourselves on delivering excellent services and during 2014/15 we successfully maintained the Customer Service Excellence Standard for the fifth consecutive year.

This commitment to excellence underpins everything we do and drives our approach to continual improvement. We are continously looking for new ways to provide better, more useful services to our residents. We choose this standard to benchmark our services because it focuses on how well we keep our promises and engage with our residents to improve our services. We’re really delighted that over 70% of you agreed that we listen and act on your views.
 
In our latest survey you have told us how important it is to you, that you can get in touch with us quickly and easily. Increasing the ease and flexibility of getting in touch has been a key priority for us this year. 
 
Facebook, My Account and email are increasingly your first choice of contact. A diverse range of communication methods gives you more flexibility and these on-demand digital services mirror high customer service levels.
 
We have also made use of other digital platforms such as Facebook and Rightmove to make sure we are marketing our homes to the widest possible audience. It helps to match people seeking a new home, and makes us more efficient by reducing the period of time a home is empty. 
                                                                   
As well as encouraging you to get online, we have also been playing our own part in matters digital. This year has seen us making use of new hand-held technology at our home visits.  We can give you better information about your account during our visits and get information recorded directly on to our systems, reducing officer time, and money spent on paperwork.



Welfare Reform and the introduction of Universal Credit means the way you receive your benefits and how you pay your rent to us will change.  For some it might be the first time you’ve needed to be online. Whilst our latest survey showed that 59% of those surveyed by telephone did have internet access, this number decreased for older residents. A third of those surveyed who did not have internet access said that lack of confidence to use online services was a barrier. To make sure you are best prepared, we have held 8 Techy Tea parties so far, during which we helped some of you to use mobile phones, offered advice on how to use tablets and showed you how to pay your rent online through My Account.   

We’ve also joined The Digital Champions Network for Housing which provides free online training to residents and staff in partnership with Digital Unite - an independent digital skills company. Residents, who wanted the opportunity to develop their computer skills and improve their employment prospects while helping others, received training to become Digital Champions. 16 Digital Champions are now on hand to help other residents to get online.

“I’ve always had a keen interest into computers and have often helped friends and family with computer questions. I look forward to helping other people and communities learn new digital skills”. Lorne Turner, Resident Digital Champion.


The use of My Account is climbing month on month, allowing you to report a repair, complete a range of forms and view your rent statements 24/7. This has enabled us to discontinue mailing out quarterly paper rent statements, saving us £10,000 a year which can be channelled into other projects.

If you you’ve not signed up yet, click here to watch our video and discover how quick and simple it is to get started and how you can benefit.

Keeping on track

Making the most of our resources really matters. Our Value for Money report sets out how well we have managed to balance the costs and the quality of services and shows how we compare with other housing organisations.
 
As members of a procurement club CHIC, working alongside other housing associations, we can bulk purchase items and services, making it cheaper for individual members. As a result we have delivered efficiencies amounting to £194,000 in providing major repairs.
 
Making our processes for collecting rents and letting homes are as effective as possible, forms a key part of our approach to value for money.  As a result we were successful in reducing both the time taken to re-let a home and in lowering the amount of debt owed due to rent arrears.
 
We’ve also formed a new Legal Enforcement team who not only looks after anti-social behaviour case work, but also manages the collection of debt from former residents. This in-house team means we save money on legal fees and also have a better collection rate for former resident debt. Last year this amounted to over £120,000.


This year we signed up to Experian’s Rent Exchange. Many tenants in social housing are excluded from services because of a lack of a credit history.  They are more likely to be refused credit, or to pay more for it, putting extra pressure on already challenging finances. 
 
By sharing your tenancy details and rent payment history it will help you improve your credit rating and help you create an online profile. Credit history information is also used by many online service providers to help verify that you are who you say you are, and that you live where you say you live.  A good credit profile makes it easier to open or change bank accounts, shop online, and get better gas and electricity rates and mobile phone deals.

Please visit www.experian.co.uk/rental-exchange

We know that many households maybe adversely affected to changes to Welfare Benefits, particularly at the point that benefits change. That's why preparing residents who will be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit has been a key part of our plans. Providing information in our newsletters and on our website, we have also been encouraging residents to get ahead with their rent, so that that they are not caught out at the point that they switch to Universal Credit.  At this point housing benefit will stop and it will be a month before Universal Credit is received, during which time rent payments will still be due.

In the month's ahead we will be stepping up our campaign to make sure we have contacted as many of you as possible who are likely to be affected by Universal Credit. Remember, if you have any queries our Income Team are on hand.                     

Building Great Homes

Britain is still in the grip of a housing crisis. Over the next 20 years, in the East Midlands region alone, there will be 385,000 new families, all of whom will need homes, but at current building rates, 220,000 will have nowhere to live. As part of Longhurst Group we want to reach our goal of building more much needed homes.

 

In 2014/15 we built 326 new homes. In Peterborough alone we built 160. In fact we contributed the largest single contribution to the housing stock built in Peterborough in the last 25 years. Over 30% of the cities affordable housing is provided by L&H HomesThis included the development of two major regeneration projects – Midland Road and Windsor Avenue. Windsor Avenue, a mixed tenure scheme in Peterborough city centre, caught the eye of the judges thanks to its independent funding arrangements and is named one of Inside Housing’s Top 60 Developments.

 

Another key area of development for us this year is Grantham. We have built 40 properties for rent and shared ownership. To respond to the growing demand for affordable homes that meets the needs of today’s lifestyle, we have built a mixture of one bedroom flats and houses for rent, as well as two and three bedroom houses and two bedroom bungalows.

Take a look at our latest stock map, showing our full areas of operation.

Your Community



Over the last year we have continued to involve you in as many ways as possible to make sure that we improve our service to you and the way that it is delivered.
 
Our resident panels monitor performance, challenge us and encourage us to look for ways to improve things. Their role is vital in supporting us to deliver a valued and quality service.


There are many ways to get involved read about some of them here.

Watch our video of our Community Involvement Officer Sue Crask about the community initatives that have taken place throughout the year.



 

2014 saw the arrival of our new community vehicle.  Not only did we save over £65,000 by replacing our old unit, the new smaller one is able to access more sites than the old vehicle allowing us to have contact with even more of you. 
 
We held 9 summer events, inviting 529 households with 174 of you attending.  Children and families in particular enjoy bringing the community together through activities and games.  Our mascot Finn is much loved by young children who eagerly anticipate his arrival!
 
“I don’t know of any other landlord that does this kind of event, it’s really good to see the L&H staff.” L&H Resident 
 
105 walkabouts through 35 schemes helped us to speak with 221 households. You told us that you value this face to face contact which helped tackle a range of issues from antisocial behaviour through to noise nuisance and repairs.

“The panel feel that the walkabouts are having a positive impact for the residents living on these schemes. Any problems are being actively resolved and issues are stopped from escalating. Residents also feel comfortable speaking to members of staff about any problems in their neighbourhood." Neighbourhoods and Communities Panel


We work closely with you to create neighbourhoods which are welcoming and safe places to live. Our Neighbourhood Management Standard sets out the standard of service you can expect to receive. 

 
Working in partnership with you, with over 40 estate and landscape champions, you have played a key role in helping us to ensure that we keep our services up to scratch. The feedback we receive is also reviewed by our resident panels to make sure we are doing all we can to continuously improve the service.
 
We also work closely with you if things go wrong and we need to address any issue of anti-social behaviour. Our aim is to ensure that we tackle problems directly and try and bring about positive changes in behaviour to everyone’s benefit.  At the same time we have taken firm action where we do not see these changes and where local communities are seriously affected.

You have also told us that we are doing a good job. Over 95% of you who had a complaint of anti-social behaviour last year have told us that you were satisfied or very satisfied with the way we have handled your complaint. At the same time we also worked hard to make sure that costs of taking legal action are kept to a minimum.  By using our own internal Legal Enforcement team we estimate that we have made savings of £80,000 on legal actions by building and presenting cases in court without the use of Solicitors.

Rewarding You

Last year we awarded almost £2000 through our Shining Star, Community Chest and Training Grants.  It’s all part of what we do.  Any member of our Just Rewards Scheme can apply for funding for one of our rewards. Our RICS panel allocate funds to worthy causes.  Find out more about Just Rewards by clicking here.
 

Shining Star

Sometimes you amaze us with your kindness, time, and support in working to make your communities a better place to live. Our Shining Star Awards recognise those of you who go the extra mile, and last year we made eight Shining Star Awards to some very special people.


 

Community Chest

If you are a member of Just Rewards, you can apply, on behalf of your community for a Community Chest Grant.  Seven grants were made last year, totalling £1350.  The grants helped you to improve communal areas, buy arts and crafts materials, maintain gardens and even have a piano retuned for social events.
 

Training and Education Grants

We want to support you at work too. That might mean helping you to move into employment, or progressing within your current job.  We made six awards last year totalling £2839. Two people have completed their course, two are still studying and one has secured a full time job as a result of his training.
 
Jason had been unemployed for a long time so was really pleased when he found a job as a HGV driver last year. Unfortunately Jason joined the company just before the national regulations changed and all HGV drivers needed to complete a new driving qualification. Drivers were expected to cover the cost of the training and without the qualification he couldn’t stay on with his employer. He applied for a £370 grant from L&H Homes and went on to pass his test; he now feels like he has more options for the future.

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Looking after our assets


 

Keeping homes in good shape ensures that we match your priorities and makes sound business sense. During last year we completed in excess of 1,000 major repair improvements, including new kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems, investing £4.6million in your homes.

Last year we also finalised and published our ‘Home Standard’ which was the result of close consultation with residents through our ‘Your Home’, resident panel. This has helped to secure higher standards and improved choices for residents having major repair works.
 
Our latest resident survey indicated that repairs were one of the main things which affect the way you feel about the service we provide. We were disappointed to note that levels of satisfaction with repairs had decreased slightly since our last survey. In particular you felt we need to make further improvements to how we communicate with you when problems with repairs arise. We have shared this with our teams and contractors and we are committed to working to improve performance in the year ahead. We will continue to focus on a right first time approach, both at the point that you contact us about repairs issues and when contractors attend to complete repairs in your home.

Our Promise for 2015/16

We will continue to work in partnership with our residents to deliver excellent value for money services.
 
 We will:
  • Continue to grow our business with 177 homes for rent and sale in our development programme.
  • Ensure we continue to provide a quality and value for money service wherever possible, making sure our ways of working are as efficient as possible.
  • Identify and communicate with residents likely to be affected by Universal Credit and other welfare reforms, to ensure they are well informed and work with them to prevent rent arrears.
  • Continue to develop and promote opportunities for resident involvement and feedback.
  • We will further develop our digital services, with a target to have 2000 residents signed up to My Account by April 2016. We will continue to roll out mobile technology to promote more secure and efficient working practices for our officers.