COMMUNITY ANCHORS: Engaging with residents about our future plans

Words and images supplied by The Pioneer Group

Later this year we will be celebrating 20 years since the Housing Action Trust transferred our homes on the Vale to what was then called Castle Vale Community Housing Trust. This was then known as Castle Vale Community Housing Association and later renamed The Pioneer Group in 2015.

I can’t begin to capture all the changes that have happened since that time. The early days were all about delivering on promises to invest in homes and develop good landlord services.

Today we continue to deliver on those promises, reinvesting in schemes like our window and door replacement programme and taking steps to reduce our homes impact on the environment.

Decisions about how we invest in our homes and services is set out in a document called our Corporate Plan – the current five-year plan runs until April next year and has been focused on great safe homes and strong vibrant communities.

Over the next three months we will be engaging with all residents, our service users and stakeholders on our next corporate plan. We want to know what you think makes a great landlord and help set our priorities for the next three years.

With continuing economic pressure, it is likely that there are going to be some difficult choices to make, so it’s important that you have your say.

I would encourage you to get involved, have your say and genuinely influence what we do for you and your community.

If you want to come along to a focus group or have some thoughts to share please get in touch through our website (see below) or call into the High Street office.

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: Paget Rangers return to the Vale

Words and lead image supplied by The Pioneer Group / Supporting pics by Ed King

Birmingham-based Paget Rangers have come home to Castle Vale, playing on Saturday afternoons at Castle Vale Stadium as per league fixtures.

Since leaving the estate in the late 90s, the football club are already re-engaging with the local community by welcoming them to their home games.

The team are also preparing to provide free football training at the stadium, for those living in Castle Vale and surrounding areas.

Dave Travers, Stadium Manager at Castle Vale Stadium, said: “We are delighted to have brought back Paget Rangers to the stadium, as a new club with a big community focus.

“With a junior section of teams from ages 7 to 18, they have a clear pathway into first team football and are producing their first own team players.”

Lee Woods, Stadium Duty Officer, added: “It’s exciting to welcome Paget Rangers back home and see how the club drives forward.

“All of us at the stadium and wider organisation, The Pioneer Group, look forward to the future of this new, bright partnership.”

Almost 25 years ago, Paget Rangers moved to their home, Vale Stadium in Castle Vale, for the start of the 1998/1999 season, after five seasons ground sharing with Sutton Coldfield Town.

Unfortunately, this did not work out – however, The Pioneer Group bought the stadium, maintaining a community sport and social hub for Castle Vale residents.

Sean Feeney, Chairman of Paget Rangers, said: “We believe that Castle Vale Stadium can be the heartbeat of this football club and residents of the local community can be our 12th man.

“We look forward to supporters joining us, so we have decided to offer all residents from Castle Vale a discounted season ticket this year.”

For more from Paget Rangers visit www.pagetrangers.co.uk

For more information about Castle Vale Stadium, visit  www.castlevalestadium.co.uk or follow the venue on Facebook @Castle Vale Stadium

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, 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: Castle Vale Community Safety Summit

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

In May, I was pleased to represent The Pioneer Group at the Castle Vale Community Safety Summit called and organised by Cllr. Ray Goodwin.

The event was a part our response to residents’ concerns that crime and anti-social behaviour was getting worse on the Vale. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, it was testament to the strength of feeling that nearly 40 residents attended and took an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences.

There was clearly some frustration in respect of the police presence and how thinly spread resources are. Though it was pleasing to hear evidence that crime was actually less prevalent in the Vale than in some surrounding areas.

We continue to play our part in this important issue having recently supported the local policing team to maintain a presence on the Vale, working from one of Pioneer’s local office hubs. Our recent investment in digital upgrades to the CCTV camaras means that they’re all working well.

Residents were supportive of the summit and shared ideas around placement of cameras and the potential for ANPR systems on main access and exits to the neighbourhood and were invited to join a new community speed watch group.

There was a real consensus that we would continue to work in partnership to strengthen the offer around youth work and provision for young people on the Vale.

We remain committed to listening to and acting on feedback from our most important stakeholders, our tenants and residents.

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: New Mayor, new approach to housing supply

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

With a new Mayor elected in the West Midlands I very much look forward to seeing a reinvigorated approach to the need for more social housing across the region.

The new Mayor, Richard Parker, speaking in Inside Housing made clear his commitment to “having the biggest social housing development programme we’ve seen for 40 years in the West Midlands”.

Whoever had been elected the combined authority is set to get new devolved powers to deliver central governments affordable homes programme from 2026 and a £400m investment to transition to that implementation date.

This hopefully will help Mr Parker deliver on his commitment to build 2,000 social rented homes by 2028. Social rent is usually set at about 60% of market rent and is therefore the most affordable tenure on the market.

Here at Pioneer we will support not just the combined authorities priorities in this area but also continue to work with Birmingham City Councils ambitions to work in partnership to deliver more homes in the City.

As I Have discussed previously the city has a chronic shortage of such homes leading to huge waiting lists.

I wish Mr Parker and all the newly elected officials across the region all the best in their new roles and look forward to their ambitions for the region being delivered.

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: 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.