A presentation by representative of Lincolnshire Housing Partnership.
The Chairman welcomed the representatives from Lincolnshire Housing Partnership, Mr Anthony Read Chairman, Mr Murray MacDonald Chief Executive and Mr Mark Coupland Corporate Head for Customer Service to the meeting and thanked them agreeing to attend.
Mr Anthony Read addressed the meeting and confirmed he had been in the post since September 2019 and that Lincolnshire Housing Partnership were grateful to have the opportunity to address the meeting. Referencing a question which sought to identify any issues Lincolnshire Housing Partnership were experiencing with the Council, he advised on that there were none and the relationship between the two remained very strong. Thanking Members for the pre submission of questions, Mr Read stated it was much easier to deal with specifics in advance to allow responses at the meeting. Furthermore, Mr Read advised of forthcoming recruitment schemes by Lincolnshire Housing Partnership. Confirming the board membership was rotated every six years, with three board members retiring, three new board members were currently sought. Furthermore Lincolnshire Housing Partnership were looking to appoint 2 of their tenants to sit on their operations committee, and they were also working with three other housing associations across Lincolnshire to provide a facility for training future board members. Committee were asked to encourage any suitable candidates they may know to apply.
Mr Murray Macdonald noted that he was delighted at the success of the quadrant development and the support the housing association had been able to provide within Phase 1 to enable the development to begin. He advised that since the merger they had stayed committed to the comital at the merger with the agreed priorities of customers first and not forgetting Boston. Concerns noted at the time of the merger in respect of all monies going to Grimsby had not happened. The partnership working with the Council continued with officers working together on the town deal and on homelessness issues with each committed to Boston and its community. A physical office remained in Boston staffed by local residents of the town. 77 new homes had been built since the merger with a further 95 homes in either the ground or the pipeline to be built. More than £50million had also been spent since the merger to update and improve homes.
Throughout Covid, Lincolnshire Housing Partnership had never had to stop any of its services and had maintained its repair service during that time along with its care service. Boston Mayfield which provided extra care services to residents had shielded and the site had remained safe.
Moving onto the questions tabled in advance of the meeting and during the meeting have been collated and the representatives responses as follows:
Referencing concern at neglected rural properties:
The partnership had invested in repairs with a comprehensive programme of works for all properties based on the life cycle of the property and equipment therein, which did not distinguish between rural and urban dwellings. It was always a tenant’s choice to accept repairs to the property and sometimes they did refuse resulting in the home not being repaired or updated. Walkabouts at all sites were vital in identifying potential ‘missed’ dwellings and the input of residents and members during the walkabouts could not be underestimated and was invaluable intelligence gathering. Members were encouraged to take part in their areas and a full schedule of walkabouts would be provided after the meeting.
Delays and concerns in respect of answering enquiries and dealing with repairs:
On average 1000 repairs per month were undertaken in Boston, and occasionally when an engineer arrived on site, the initial repair reported was not as it seemed, resulting in engineers needing source materials and return to complete the task with 96% of repairs being undertaken at the first time visit. It was always intended to address enquiries for repairs within 10 working days but on the odd occasion it could be longer. In 1920/21 the Partnership had received 11 complaints from Councillors with only one exceeding the timescale. The switchboard received 150000 calls per year with 50000 being repair related. A direct email address for Councillors to submit complaints would be provided after the meeting and reassurance was provided that all complaints by Councillors were addressed.
Tenants with a history of ASB against their neighbours and who regularly swapped homes:
Members were assured that all applications were vetted and checked with agencies but they were clearly dependant on evidence having been provided of such activity. The partnership worked closely with other agencies and action was taken when evidence was available.
Provision of play areas:
With no remit to provide play areas within their sites, the Partnership had inherited certain play spaces during the merger but the upkeep of those areas was at a cost to the tenants. As tenants move to right to buy the number of rent paying tenants reduced and they picked up the outstanding costs. If there was evidence that tenants required additional play areas then consultations would take place, but it was the tenants who would decide.
Responsibility of tenant to maintain property:
All tenants were responsible to maintain their homes to an acceptable standard with all new customers on starter tenancies. Liaison with other agencies helped to identify evidence and enforcement action using a Bailiff through the Courts was taken.
Energy efficient homes moving forward:
Boston’s existing housing stock was some of the most energy efficient the Partnership held and above the national target with 480 properties below the statutory level of 69. Of the remaining stock 60% would reach the requirement by 2030 of Energy Level C with the remainder being unable to achieve the level due to their design and construction. One option would be to sell those properties but that would not help the required housing stock provision. A survey of all properties had been collated over the years providing a clear picture of each property. The traditional brick builds did not present a problem, but the modern properties built with concrete and flat roofs were an issue. Whilst there were solutions, they could potentially be so expensive that re building would be the best option. However, consideration would also be given to history of the tenants at such properties with recognition of the memories many generations of families may be invested within them.
A Member voiced their thanks to the representatives, stating that the service the Partnership provided should be celebrated, especially for its speed of response to urgent issues.
Concluding the Chairman thanked the representatives for their time and informative presentation and extended an open invitation to attend a future meeting to further inform and update the committee.