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Agenda item

Housing Association Scrutiny - Clarion Housing Group

Minutes:

The Committee received a presentation from Catherine Kyne, Regional Director of Housing Director, and Vicky Bonner, Director of Housing on Clarion’s work as a landlord in the borough.

 

 

The following main points were noted in the discussion:

·        Clarion Housing currently manages 3,687 properties located within the Archway, Holloway and Tufnell Park areas of Islington and it includes all the various types of tenure.

·        80% of Clarion residents are satisfied with the service they receive and although complaints are still high, there has been a significant improvement in comparison to previous years.

·        Repairs has been brought back in house to improve the service provision for residents and address legacy repair issues.

·         Clarion’s in-house response repairs service completes over 1,000 repairs a day and 82.6% of repairs are resolved as first time fixes.

·        Clarion is committed to providing affordable homes for those excluded by the housing market and will work with Islington Council to address this issue. Clarion has a development programme to deliver 50,000 homes in 10 years.

·        Due to the changes to the welfare benefits system, the organisation has put in place 25 experienced welfare benefits advisers to support residents to manage their finances and help with the  application process.  Clarion recognises the challenges from the implementation of the universal credit.

·       On the green paper on housing, the meeting was advised that it had gathered resident’s feedback and used this to respond on the recommendations.  Clarion supports meaningful reforms that improves life quality and service for all its resident’s.

·       In terms of future plans, Clarion continues to explore with the Council on how it can support the delivery of new homes. It has brought forward its planned work programme to address previous under investment in street properties.  

Clarion futures, the charitable arm of Clarion has a large employment and training department which works with key partners and residents. It also works with young people across all its boroughs to support its strategy to improve their lives.

·       There has been relatively few cases of anti-social behaviour associated with Clarion properties in the borough.

·       Clarion’s inability to develop new homes in the borough was due to high land values, however it welcomes the opportunity to work jointly with Islington Council to find creative ways to address this issue.

·       Clarion tenants are offered fixed terms instead of life tenancies and this was in line with governments policy that social housing should be restricted to those in need however following the recent changes, the organisation is looking at this and will communicate any changes to the borough.  

·        In response to complaints about the service of repairs, Clarion acknowledged that the service is not where it wants it to be and that there is scope for more work on improving the levels of resident satisfaction.

·       On concerns about lack of communication with residents of Minerva Lodge, a sheltered home, the Director advised members that Clarion officers would be visiting the home to better understand the concerns and rectify the issues raised.

·       With regards to the complaints process, the meeting was informed that both stage two and Member complaints are escalated to senior managers and as part of improving complaint resolution times it has put in place a regional performance team with the aim of addressing the complaints and developing a lessons learnt system.

·       The meeting was advised that the recent decision to change the contractors employed for responsive repairs has resulted to an increase in the level of resident satisfaction, Clarion recognises that there is room for more work to be done and that there will be a dip in services as it stabilises the new service.

·       In response to concerns that resolving repairs took 3 visits, the meeting was advised that the programme of developing multi skilled operatives would result in an increase in first time fixes.

·        The meeting was advised that having terminated its contract with Wates, Clarion decided to bring the repair service in house.

·        Members were informed that although some of the complaints are historical, Clarion is determined to address long standing issues such as boiler replacements, damp, design of kitchens etc. In addition Clarion has brought forward its cyclical works programme for its properties and will be liaising with its resident on the various works planned at their property.

·       In response to fire safety concerns within housing blocks, the meeting was advised that regular fire assessments are carried out in all their properties and the details are published on Clarion’s website for transparency and assurance to residents. To allay resident’s concerns about fire incidents, a programme has been put in place to install safety lights and alarms communal hallways.  

·       Clarion has a programme to check and when required replace the external fire doors for all its street properties and in the case of multi-purpose blocks its internal doors.

·        With regard to Clarion’s surplus of £152million in the previous year, Officers informed the meeting that this should be looked at in the context that there is over £1 billion debt that is required to service the housing programmes of building new homes and maintaining its current stock.  Members were advised that the surplus is re-invested back into improving and providing housing and resident services.

·       In response to enquiries about staff and Board diversity, the salary ratio between management and the low paid staff and if Clarion pays its staff the London living wage, the Director advised that they do not have this information and if collated the information would be provided to Members through the Committee clerk.

·       In response to questions on tenancy, the meeting was advised that an affordability assessment for residents is carried out and a narrative would be circulated to Committee members.

The Chair thanked Clarion Housing for their attendance and welcomed their plans to address the long standing repairs of their residents, however there was still concern that the organisation could do more especially in the provision of homes in the borough and in the maintenance of their existing stock of housing.   “

 

 

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