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: Come and say hello – a message from Urban Devotion Birmingham

Words by Amy Heyes, Co-director at UDB / Artwork by Ash Porter

For the last 20 years we have been engaging with young people, children, and families in Erdington.

You may see our team out walking the streets in our blue coats and hoodies, or with our Mobile Youth Venue (MYV) – come and say hi if you do! In addition to this we work with local primary and secondary schools and run weekly free, open access drop-ins for children, families, and young people in partnership with the churches that host us. Snacks are included and if you’re a child or young person we’d love to see you there.

Between Monday and Tuesday, we run a children’s and two youth drop-ins from the basement of St Martins Church on Witton Lodge Road.

On a Tuesday we also host a youth cafe from St Barnabas’ Café on Erdington High Street.

We have a Wyrley Birch family drop-in on a Wednesday. In the summer this is on Witton Lakes, through the winter Lakeside have hosted us.

On Thursdays we take our MYV to Erdington Oaks Play Park on Topcroft, and we also run both a family and youth drop in at Lighthouse Church in Pype Hayes.

Every Friday we finish the week with a children’s and a youth drop-in from St Chads Church on Stoneyhurst Road, Erdington Hall.

Please scan our QR code to see more information including sign up forms and a link to our Instagram and Facebook accounts where we share updates and last minute changes – please check before attending, especially in school holidays.

For more on Urban Devotion Birmingham visit www.urbandevotion.org

Urban Devotion Birmingham is a key partner 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: The impact of Council cuts on our communities: and what we can do

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association

Like many of you, we have seen the degree and shape of the Council’s funding and service cuts, and they are devastating. At Witton Lodge Community Association, we are deeply concerned about the impact that they will have on our most vulnerable communities. Local charities, groups, foodbanks, and networks are doing their very best, but are being overwhelmed by a tsunami of demand.

As the Council grapples with its financial crisis, we know that budgets are not just numbers – they represent lives, hopes, and the very fabric of our community. Following a decade of austerity, we are particularly concerned about further cuts to Youth Services and Libraries – they are the frontline of providing support, education, a sense of belonging, and safe spaces for our young people.

We know local charities and support networks play a critical role, and these funding cuts mean that unfortunately, some will go under, whilst others will struggle to maintain the already ‘frayed safety net’ that many vulnerable people rely on.

But, as we did during the pandemic, we will be stepping up to the challenge. We have already distributed over £250,000 to local groups to provide essential support services and will redouble efforts to strengthen local networks to attract further resources.

We have urged the Council to work with us and local partners to protect local assets. At Witton Lodge we have a successful track record of doing this – Perry Common Community Hall, Witton Lakes Eco Hub, and Erdington Baths (our latest venture), are some examples of this. But it is not just about buildings, it is about local voices and services – designing and delivering services differently to meet the needs of our communities, and ensuring the Council gets value-for-money.

Our community and city’s recovery relies on us pulling together, taking action, and advocating for change that works with the grain of communities.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner in the Erdington Local COMMUNITY ANCHORS programme, supporting independent local and community journalism.

COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Building community scaffolding with Witton Lodge Community Association

Words by Afzal Hussain – Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association


 
The first weeks of 2024 seem to have passed in a blur. Although still early in the New Year, there have already been some notable highlights.

First, we are thrilled to welcome a number of new volunteers who have joined our existing colleagues and are already making incredible contributions. We were also delighted to support 31 local groups and organisations with grant funding to deliver a wide range of services, which we are confident will make a huge difference across Erdington. We will shortly be publishing details of these projects, so do look out for them.

Off the back of this success, we are seeking to work with trusted local groups to establish Digital Hubs across Erdington, where residents can access computers and online services, as well as support to gain new skills.

As many of you will know, Witton Lodge Community Association was setup in response to a housing crisis, and over the past 30 years worked hard to transform Perry Common. But we know there is more to do, and in recent years we have been purchasing empty properties, refurbishing, and making them available to local families.

Many of our residents are still struggling with cost-of-living pressures, which is why our Advice Services, Health and Wellbeing projects, and Job search are so vital, and in demand. We believe this ‘community scaffolding’ will hold us in better stead for the inevitable tough times ahead.

Our approach, at its heart, remains as it did all those years ago… working with and alongside our communities, listening, and harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop services that deliver results.

For more on Witton Lodge Community Association, visit www.wittonlodge.org.uk

Witton Lodge Community Association is a key partner 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: Free app from Castle Vale Community Housing gives tenants savings and discounts

Words & pics supplied by Castle Vale Comunity Housing

Castle Vale Community Housing has partnered with Housing Perks to launch a free discount app for all our tenants. This discount app is called Housing Perks and it gives you discounts with 100s of brands and stores to help you save money with everyday spending. 

The free app will help you to save money on essentials such as groceries, car fuel, clothing, school uniforms and school equipment, home furnishings & DIY and family days out.

‍Discounts are also available with some of your favourite brands and stores including Sainsburys, Asda, B&M, Argos, Primark, TK Maxx, B&Q, Sports Direct and much more.

How to sign up:

Just download the free app in the App Store or Google Play  (or scan the QR code on the flyer at the top of this post). Then, select the name of the housing association Castle Vale Community Housing, press continue and then enter the first five digits of your tenancy reference number. You can find this number on letters and other communications from us.

Click on the following link to view and download these sign up instructions: How To Sign Up To Housing Perks


 
To help you with the process please click on the FAQ link below for more information on downloading and using the Housing Perks app: www.yourhousingperks.com/faqs

If we can be of assistance please contact us via email on [email protected] or call us on 0121 748 8100.

The app is free, quick and easy to use and available to all tenants. So sign up today and get saving – click here, open the link and scan the QR code.

For more from 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 2024 wish list for Castle Vale Community Housing

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


 
I didn’t write to Santa as I am sure he had enough on his plate but if he had any influence on the state of social housing my wish list would probably look something like this:

First and foremost, whatever the outcome of this year’s General Election (and I think it will be this year) whoever is elected the need for a ‘long term plan for social housing’ as advocated by the National Housing Federation would be top of my list.

We don’t need more arbitrary targets (that never get hit) on building of more homes but actual delivery. We need to see social housing as a bedrock of lifting people out of poverty and improving life chances, reducing the strain on health and social services. I’d like to see this as a national mission and one we can play our part in.


 
For those who live in social housing times are not set to get any easier in 2024. While inflation looks to be reducing, let’s remember that simply means the rate of price increases is slowing not coming down.

For those in low paid work and on fixed incomes the price of their ‘basket of goods’ will continue to be challenging and The Pioneer Group is committed to playing our part through our cost-of-living taskforce in 2024. Some economic relief would be on my list!

Last but by no means least I want us to deliver on our own list of actions in the year ahead – we don’t need a man with a white beard to deliver on our promises – we will build more homes, we will invest in our existing homes and we will continue to provide a top class repairs service and charitable services through Compass Support.


 
I know people will be worried about the plight of the City Council – I am too – but we will do our bit in making sure we fight for and work in partnership to protest and deliver housing and estate services into our core communities that our tenants, residents and service users need.

I wish all you a very happy and prosperous 2024 and look forward to sharing more about our work in these columns in the year ahead.

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.