COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Pressures on social housing investment

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group & Castle Vale Community Housing / Pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

At Pioneer, a bricks and mortar business, our foundations are built around sustaining the large-scale regeneration of the 1990s in Castle Vale.

We take long-term decisions based on a 40-year financial business plan. We can borrow money against some of our homes and develop long-term investment plans to make homes the best they can be for tenants.

Our homes sit within a community with a range of other assets, including schools, GP surgeries, shops, parks, swimming pool, library, football stadium and more. Most importantly, the people living in our homes and communities are who we must pay attention to.

For many the cost-of-living crisis continues to be tough. It’s also tough running a business, with rising costs and resource demand stretched like never before.

In the Aril/May edition of Erdington Local, you can read about Pioneer’s £11 million investment in a windows and doors replacement programme across Castle Vale. Tenants explained the importance of this, to keep homes warmer and energy bills down.

I am pleased to begin this work and have it completed as quickly as possible. This is part of a wider £47 million investment in our homes over 10 years, alongside replacing core components. This will see us tackling climate change by making homes even more energy efficient.

It’s important to take every opportunity to listen and shape investment decisions around what matters to tenants – even meaning difficult choices on occasions. If we continue to listen and act on what matters to our tenants this will stand us in good stead.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

The Pioneer Group, Castle Vale Community Housing, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Pioneer joins National Housing Federations’ call to solve housing crisis

Words & pics supplied by The Pioneer Group

The Pioneer Group is joining the National Housing Federations’ call for political parties to commit to a long-term national plan to solve the housing crisis to support the thousands of households in the West Midlands in desperate need of a safe, suitable and affordable home.

As the mayoral election in the West Midlands approaches, access to affordable housing has become increasingly important among voters, with over half of Brits saying that the government should prioritise building social housing.

Households in the West Midlands could have to wait just under five years before they’ll be able to live in an affordable social home, even if no new households joined the waiting list, according to new analysis of the latest affordable housing figures.

Many have found themselves at the sharp end of the housing crisis, analysis by the National Housing Federation (NHF) found that while 64,382 households were on the waiting list for social housing, only 13,579 new social housing lettings were available last year.

At the current rate of lettings, and if no new households joined the list, this means that it could take just under another five years before every household currently on the waiting list can move into a suitable home that they can afford.

Chief Executive Officer of The Pioneer Group, Simon Wilson, said: “We recognise the desperate need for more social homes in our communities as far too many Birmingham people spend years languishing on housing waiting lists in often wholly unsuitable homes.

“We have been playing our part and are on track to deliver on the commitment we made to deliver 250 new homes by 2025.

“We truly believe in and support this national campaign by the National Housing Federations and Chartered Institute of Housing to have a long term plan for housing.

“For far too long peoples housing needs have been a political football and I really hope politicians of all persuasion can get behind this campaign as we go into Mayoral and national elections this year.”

Social housing lettings refer to homes let at either social rent, typically 50% of market rents, or Affordable Rent, at least 20% below market rents – making them the only affordable option for many. Across the country, chronic shortage of affordable social homes has left many families stuck in unaffordable, unsuitable accommodation, far from local support networks, schools, job opportunities and even facing homelessness.

Consequences of this have been felt across the West Midlands as the housing crisis in England worsens. Shortage of affordable homes means that more people have had to turn to living in expensive, insecure private rented homes, leaving many facing impossible choices as they struggle to balance rent with other essential bills, or risk facing homelessness. NHF research from 2019 revealed that nearly half of children in private rented homes are living in poverty.

Director of Housing and Community at The Pioneer Group, Jo Fieldhouse, said: “I see the dreadful impact of years of underinvestment in truly affordable homes can have on people’s lives.

“As we support our tenants and residents through the cost-of living-crisis I really hope that this campaign forges a real national consensus that access to decent housing is a bedrock from which people can thrive and a change starts to deliver hope for people who need our support.”

Last year, for every new social home built in England, six households were accepted as homeless by their local council, while more children than before are living in temporary accommodation. This trend is also putting local councils under increasing financial pressure with councils spending £1.74bn to support households in temporary accommodation in 2022/23 – set to worsen, with recent research revealing that the number of children living in temporary accommodation is estimated to reach 150,000 by 2030.

The widening gap between the demand for social housing and the availability of is not an anomaly in the West Midlands. It is the result of decades of underfunding and underinvestment in affordable homes by successive governments, which in turn has led to a chronic shortage of social housing and contributed to the current housing crisis.

But this is a crisis that can be solved. Housing associations are ambitious to do more to tackle this crisis, but it will take a long-term commitment from local and national governments to address.

With a long-term plan in place, by 2035 the National Housing Federation believe it is possible to: fix child homelessness, halve overcrowding, provide the security of a social home for one million more people, ensure a warm and decent home for seven million more families, improve affordability, and boost productivity by ensuring every region has the homes it needs to grow.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

For more on the National Housing Federation visit www.housing.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Doors and windows showcase as The Pioneer Group upgrade over 2000 homes – 11 April

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: A long term plan for social housing

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing

If you’re a social housing tenant, whatever you feel about the quality of your home and services your landlord supplies (and I hope you’re happy if your landlord is Pioneer), the reality is you have an increasingly precious resource.

In Birmingham alone, there are currently around 23,000 social housing applicants waiting for a home. There are more than 4,500 households in priority need – people in temporary accommodation – and tonight over 400 families will be in unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation waiting to be housed.

But this is not just a Birmingham issue, it’s a national housing crisis with 8.5 million people unable to access the housing they need. The total cost of poor housing, on society, is estimated at £18.5bn per year. Compare this to the cost to the NHS which is £1.4bn a year.

Ahead of the next general election, our trade body the National Housing Federation is making a case to all political parties for a ‘long term plan for housing’. By 2035 this plan could fix child homelessness, halve overcrowding, provide a million more social homes for people, deliver warm decent homes for seven million more families and improve affordability and ensure all regions have the homes they need to grow.

Research shows that the economic impact of building social housing would be significant; building 90,000 social rented homes a year could add £51.2bn to the UK economy and create almost 350,000 jobs. Within 11 years the investment in the new homes by the Government would be fully paid back.

It’s not for me to influence how you vote in the next general election, though I would encourage everyone to use their democratic right to vote (remember your ID!), but what I do ask is that you look at what is in the parties manifestos to tackle the housing crisis and perhaps consider the one that comes closest to meeting the huge housing challenges and has a long term plan for social housing.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: “It’s the economy stupid”

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – Castle Vale Community Housing


 
The above is a quote coined by James Carville in 1992; he was a strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful Presidential election campaign that year.

It’s looking likely we’ll have our own General Election this year and whatever your politics or level of interest in it, as a housing provider working in a Government regulated sector where politicians have a big impact on policy and legislation, we can’t escape.

It’s right that we focus more on keeping our tenants safe in their homes following the tragic events at Grenfell and the death of Awaab Ishak as a result of prolonged exposure to damp and mould in his social housing home.

The pace and volume of stronger legislation and regulation coming our way is intense at the moment. But as a responsible community focussed landlord, we welcome this and feel we are getting ahead of the tide.


 
What is slightly frustrating is the lack of discussion about the state of the economy and the day-to-day impact this is having on tenants’ lives. Inflation is coming down and that’s to be welcomed but the simple reality is while the rate of price increases is slowing – nothing is getting cheaper when you fill your shopping trolley or fuel tank or pay your utility bill.

As some politicians seem distracted by Rwanda and ‘culture wars,’ as a landlord we remain focussed on helping those most exposed by the current state of the UK economy. We will be strengthening the support our tenants receive around debt and benefit advice as well as crisis fund and household support again in the year ahead.

We will also continue to work in partnership across our communities with partners who share this focus on our cost of living taskforce; let’s hope as the Election gets closer, the focus of politicians will do the same.

For more on Castle Vale Community Housing visit www.cvch.org.uk

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme – supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: New faces for the year ahead at The Pioneer Group

Words & pics supplied by The Pioneer Group


 
There have been a series of changes to the Board at The Pioneer Group and the organisation’s charitable arm Compass Support.

The Birmingham based social housing landlord, with a portfolio of more than 2,700 properties, has announced new Members and Chairs as it continues to work with service providers and stakeholders, to deliver community-led housing solutions alongside essential support services around youth, family support, health and employment.

Hiten Patel, Jason Clarke and James Emblow have been appointed to the Pioneer Board.

Hiten, a Governance and Risk Director at an international technology organisation, brings extensive skills in strategic, commercial, and financial direction. Jason, the Head of Development for the Midlands Region of Orbit Homes, has more than 25 years of experience within the social housing sector while James, the Head of Property Analytics at Paradigm Housing Group, boasts 18 years of experience in social housing and specialises in operational property management processes, systems and data.


 
In addition, Kate Algate, Company Director at VISAV Limited, has been appointed chair of the Compass Support Board. With more 20 years of community engagement and participation experience as well as charity leadership, she also has a strong background in policing, crime prevention and community safety.

Phil Done, a Grants and Relationship Manager for Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC), has been appointed as the Vice-Chair on the Compass Support Board.  Phil has worked in the Voluntary Sector since 2015. Phil will be taking over from Barbara Hedley, who will be standing down from the Board in September.

Two new trustees have also been recruited to the Compass Board with Castle Vale resident Natalie Downey joining Rebecca Young, who has held senior leadership roles in Local Government and currently works in the infrastructure sector.


 
For more information regarding Board Members and Chairs, please visit: www.pioneergroup.org.uk/about-us/our-team

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

Castle Vale Community Housing, The Pioneer Group, and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Key housing milestone for pioneering partnership

Words & pics supplied by Hema Chumber, The Pioneer Group


 
The Pioneer Group is a key partner of the Matrix Housing Partnership (MHP) which is celebrating a key milestone with the start of the GreenSquareAccord development at Swan Lane, West Bromwich – it’s 2,000th home.

In 2018 MHP was awarded an initial £84.5 million from Homes England to support delivery of 2,124 social and affordable homes across the West Midlands. A further £185 million has since been secured from the Government’s Affordable Homes Programme to support development of an additional 2,167 affordable homes.

MHP also comprises GSA, Black Country Housing Group, Citizen Housing Group, Rooftop Housing Association and Trident Housing Association.


 
Dave Livesey, Director of Development and Asset Management at Pioneer said: “Pioneer is proud to work with Matrix Partners on the delivery of affordable housing in the region.

“There is a chronic shortage in of good quality affordable housing across the country and marking the delivery of the 2,000th home with Matrix is important in recognising the role we have played in this.

“Pioneer is committed to providing Great Safe Homes and using our grant allocation from Homes England with our own resources ensures that we are doing what we can to address housing across the city.”

The Swan Lane development will provide 147 affordable homes for affordable and social rent.

Ruth Cooke, Chair of Matrix Housing Partnership and Chief Executive of GSA, said: “It is an honour for the Matrix Housing Partnership to be recognised as a key strategic partner of Homes England. We have been collaborating for nearly 20 years and the construction start at Swan Lane demonstrates our continued success in delivering affordable homes.”

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Castle Vale Stadium

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group

It is great to see the opening of a second new 3G football pitch at Castle Vale Stadium. This will increase capacity for more users, help us to meet the growing demand for women and girls’ football and increase opportunities to expand provision for disabled users and walking football.

It is somewhat unusual for a social housing provider to run a football facility but when we took on the long-term lease from Birmingham City Council we secured the future for an important community facility that was failing, starting to look unsightly and attracting vandalism.

The Stadium is located at the heart of Farnborough Fields, right next to Greenwood Academy. The school provides an enhanced sporting offer through a partnership with the Stadium.

In addition to the 3G pitches we have refurbished the venue’s bar and function room and created additional parking space. We continue to support grass roots football through the local Castle Vale Town club which has the vast majority of its young team members from the estate.

We also lead on the Farnborough Fields Masterplan group which brings together a range of local stakeholders. Alongside Greenwood Academy, we also work with organisations like the Community Environmental Trust who do so much hard work to sustain and create attractive green spaces in the area.

Partnership work with the city council is looking at creating an inline speed skating facility while work with the West Midlands Combined Authority aims to secure a passenger train station and service for Castle Vale.

We will shortly be looking to extend the lease on the site for another 25 years, so we can continue to protect, develop and invest in facilities for residents in the heart of our community.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Halloween Spotlights Loan Sharks

Words by Hema Chumber


 
To mark Stop Loan Sharks Week 2023, Spitfire Support Services is delivering three Halloween themed events across Castle Vale to raise awareness of this hidden crime in communities.

The activities, funded by the England Illegal Money Lending Team and supported in partnership by Castle Vale Community Housing, Starbucks and Switch Radio aim to engage people while providing insight into the dangers of unauthorised money lenders.

A Halloween Fashion Show takes place at Starbucks on 31 October for families to strut the catwalk in their outfits and win prizes. On the same day at Castle Vale Library there will be arts and crafts sessions, a special screening of A Sharks Tale and a Halloween haunted maze while a Stakeholder Presentation and Workshop at The Sanctuary on 1 November will give residents the chance to speak to learn more about the inherent dangers of borrowing from loan sharks.


 
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), also known as Stop Loan Sharks, investigates and prosecutes illegal money lenders and also supports victims.

Figures show that 56 per cent of the people supported by the IMLT in the first half of 2023 said they borrowed from someone they thought was a friend. This year’s Stop Loan Sharks Week has the theme ‘Behind the Mask’ with the aim of raising awareness within communities like Castle Vale that illegal lenders can often be hard to spot.


 
Tony Quigley, head of the IMLT, said: “These illegal money lenders are experts at deception. They are friendly and approachable at first, but when the time comes to make the repayments they can show their true face – a ruthless criminal intent on exploiting the most vulnerable.

“We want people to be aware that not all illegal money lenders look like they do on TV. They can be another mum in the playground, a neighbour, a work colleague, even a longstanding family friend.

“But it is a mask and behind it they are not your friend; they are lining their own pockets at your expense and ruining lives. There are far safer ways of accessing affordable credit, like credit unions. If anyone thinks they have been targeted in this way, they should contact our specialist team of advisers in confidence for help and support.”

Ward Councillor, Raymond Goodwin, who is also the Director at Spitfire Support Services, said: “Many families over the last 12 months have struggled because of the cost of living crisis and have not been able to pay for basic essentials unfortunately we have seen an upturn in loan sharks being accessed.

“These events are all about the dangers of using loan sharks and also how there are alternative methods of safe finance that can be accessed.”

Anyone who thinks they have been targeted by an illegal money lender or has information about illegal lending is urged to contact the IMLT in confidence.

People can call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 222 or visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk where there is a live chat facility from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

For further details on the three Halloween events please visit the Castle Vale Community Housing Facebook page. 

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Partnership and collaboration in the face of adversity

Words by Simon Wilson, Chief Executive Officer – The Pioneer Group

There have been some scary headlines about the City Council’s need to serve what is known as a Section 114 notice and while I would not seek to downplay the seriousness of the financial challenges Birmingham now faces, there is a commitment to protect core services and work is underway to set out a recovery plan.

We will support this effort. We have looked at the areas of funding we receive from the local authority and have not identified an immediate impact to services our tenants and residents receive.

As an anchor organisation we have always sought and had a strong working relationship with the City Council and a range of partners in our core communities – working closely with tenant groups, charities like Spitfire Services, faith groups, community groups and schools.

We worked together to help people through the Covid-19 pandemic and are taking the same approach to helping those most vulnerable and in need of support through our Cost of Living Task Force.

Of course this latest news is a worry and the Council will face some tough decisions as it starts to balance its books but our services will continue through CVCH and Compass Support. We will continue to work in partnership supporting other organisations, working together and getting out of the way when others are best placed to deliver in our communities.

I know when things get tough our community responds, Spitfire Services rescued and now run Castle Vale Library and swimming pool and CVCH runs – and is investing in – the Castle Vale Stadium.

We will work with whoever we need to in order to protect the facilities and services our communities hold dear.

For more on The Pioneer Group visit www.pioneergroup.org.uk and for more on Compass Support visit www.compass-support.org.uk

The Pioneer Group and Compass Support are key partners in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.