In 2018 Monmouthshire Housing Association celebrated its 10th anniversary and Construction Industry News recently caught up with Karen Tarbox, Director of Property Services, to take a look at how much progress the organisation has made over the past decade.
“We currently look after 3,890 properties, the majority of which are for social rent, although we do also have 250 leasehold homes,” explains Karen, who is responsible for overseeing all of of MHA’s new housing development, as well as the repair and maintenance of its existing property portfolio and its health & safety requirements. “We also have 1,400 garages, which is quite a high number for a housing association. We are currently looking at development opportunities for garage sites that have low demand.”
While ensuring that its housing stock, many of which were built post-war, is maintained to the required standard by its in-house workforce of 80 employees, MHA has also increasingly been looking to add to its portfolio by building new properties. This is a development that Karen has played an integral role in.
“I joined MHA around three years ago and at that time the organisation was building new homes, but only on a very small scale,” adds Karen. “Since then our development programme has really been ramped up and at the present time we have several development sites in progress simultaneously. The aim is to keep increasing our programme to the extent that we are building 100 new properties each year. We are definitely on target to achieve that objective.”
As it has grown its new build capabilities, MHA has in turn developed its own team to support the expansion. “We’re able to use our in-house team construction team for various small sites but one of the hurdles that we’re continually coming up against is the shortage of available land for development. This is a significant challenge that we’re having to contend with.
“We have a subsidiary company, Capsel limited, that we have been working with for the past 18 months or so to build properties for open market sale, both within and outside of Monmouthshire. The idea is that Capsel will then use the profits from those sales to fund further development within Monmouthshire.
“It’s all about thinking outside the box to tackle the challenges that we currently face in order to deliver the volume of new build development that we need.
“Another initiative we have introduced involves putting an arrangement in place with large volume house builders where we purchase the affordable units that they have to supply under their Section 106 planning agreement. For instance, we have major schemes at the moment with Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes where we are purchasing around 100 new homes from them. This is another way we can increase our housing stock in-line with one of our key corporate aims.
“From a housing maintenance point of view, meanwhile, we are working closely with our tenants so that we can keep them informed and involved in our repair and improvement programmes and quickly flag up any issues. It’s all about building strong communication links and making sure that our tenants are involved in the process, such as giving them the opportunity to help decide which replacement kitchens and bathrooms we use. This helps generate much greater levels of ‘buy-in’ from the tenants.”
With its commitment to developing tenant relationships, its ongoing repairs programme and the progress it has made in terms of building new properties, it is clear that MHA has been making good on delivering the promises it made when it was created ten years ago.
“We have made great progress over the past ten years in a number of areas despite facing some significant challenges,” concludes Karen. “This has been achieved thanks to the fact that we’re a very forward thinking organisation led by an extremely focused senior management team. This has allowed us to not only provide the core services, but also improve the quality of our homes, while at the same time adding to our portfolio in the process. There will be further challenges ahead but we’re in a strong financial position to keep the organisation moving forward for the benefit of our tenants.”
MHA can rightly look back at the last ten years with pride. Here’s to the next ten years…