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Around the Houses September 2011 Welcome to the second edition of ‘Around the Houses’! ‘Around the Houses’ is published monthly to showcase the excellent work members are doing in a wide variety of different areas. If you have any stories you’d like to include in the next edition, please send them to bethan-samuel@chcymru.org.uk. All stories received will also be put up on CHC’s website. More than 50 Welsh households benefit from mortgage rescue scheme More than 50 households from across Wales have been saved from having their homes repossessed thanks to Wales & West HA. WWHA recently completed its 50th mortgage rescue deal, investing more than £2m in the scheme to date. Anne Hinchey, Chief Executive, said: ‘We first became involved in the Welsh Assembly mortgage rescue scheme in January 2009. Since then we have worked across Wales to assist many families at risk of losing their homes… We also work closely with local authorities and debt advice agencies to ensure stable financial futures for our applicants.’ To date WWHA has: • Purchased 28 properties outright, where the residents have now become our tenants. • Completed 24 loans to enable the occupiers to remain in their properties as owners.

CCHA become first in Wales to be awarded London 2012 Inspire Mark Cardiff Community Housing Association has been awarded the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Inspire mark for its art and media project at Loudoun Square in Butetown, Cardiff. CCHA is the first HA in Wales to receive the Inspire mark which recognises projects which involve the local community and celebrate local history, culture and diversity. Butetown is one of the most diverse and culturally rich communities in the UK and is home to over 46 different nationalities. The project centres around the development of the Tiger Bay Film, Media and Culture Centre which is due to open in March 2012 and is part of a major £13m redevelopment of the area. CCHA intend to invite the local community to the Centre to celebrate the official opening of the London 2012 Games with a party and a screening of the event.


Exclusive service to leave RCT hundreds of thousands of pounds better off A new service available exclusively to tenants in RCT launches this month and aims to save local people over £100,000 each year. ‘Money Savers’, run by RCT Homes’ charitable subsidiary Meadow Prospect, consists of two staff members who are experts in the field of finance. The Money Savers will provide a confidential service to any RCT Homes tenant who wishes to save money in any aspect of their life. The Money Savers will visit tenants in their homes to chat about anything from helping to make weekly budgets, ensuring they are on the cheapest energy tariff and accessing any suitable grants tenants may be eligible for. Money Saver Tracy Tuckwood said, ‘Everyone wants to pay less on bills and everyday essentials and everyone probably can. Finding the time to do the research into getting the best deals and making your money go further can be off putting – it is a minefield out there ensuring you have the right information. Money Savers is a one stop shop for RCT Homes’ tenants. This service is free and is pretty much guaranteed to put money back in your pocket – no one can afford to miss this opportunity when it’s on their doorstep.’

A day trip that led to other things... Mid Wales Housing recently organised a day trip for residents from its sheltered housing schemes in Welshpool and Llanidloes. The Heulwen Trust, a local charity, provided two barges and the residents set off for a picturesque journey along the Welshpool canal. The trip was a memorable occasion for all, particularly for Mrs Morgan of Llanidloes who has not been able to go out much over the past two years due to ill health. Mrs Morgan said, ‘It was a wonderful day, passing swans and ducks and seeing the banks of the canal covered in foliage and wild flowers. I really loved the company of others and this trip has now given me the confidence to book a coach holiday, something I didn’t think I would be able to do before I went on this most enjoyable day trip.’ MWH is thrilled that the trip was so successful and will be organising further trips.

Around the Houses September 2011

First time buyers - don’t give up on your home dream! A new study has revealed that the proportion of first-time buyers in Wales is one of the lowest in the UK. However, would-be homeowners should not give up on their dream according to Stuart Davies, Executive Director of Swansea-based Gŵyr Homes. ‘Three years ago, Gŵyr Homes was set up specifically to provide homes to the marketplace for those who cannot afford to buy or rent on the open market. Having spoken to a lot of people along the way, we know that one option doesn’t fit all so we’ve developed Stepping Stones, our product range of affordable purchase and rental options, giving choices and opportunities to those who think they are unable to access housing on the open market. Gŵyr Homes are working hard to meet the demand for affordable products, constantly innovating and finding new ways of working with partners to deliver more homes to the market. The role of charitable housing organisations, like Gŵyr Homes, will play an increasingly important part in filling the gap in housing provision between social housing and the open market and we look forward to playing a part in making people’s home ownership dreams come true.’


Environmental Accreditation Success Hafod HA has been awarded Level 3 of the internationally recognised Green Dragon Environmental Standard for its commitment to reducing the impact of its activities on the environment. Reducing the environmental impact of its business is a high priority for Hafod HA and is evident through the incorporation of environmental aims. Hafod has also developed a register of Environmental Impacts which includes the specific environmental objectives of reducing energy and water consumption, maximising recycling and reducing emissions from workbased travel. Gwyn Phillips, Operations Director, said: ‘I am delighted that we have successfully achieved Green Dragon level 3 certification. Issues such as carbon emissions, waste minimisation and recycling are constantly being highlighted in the media and as an organisation we are committed to doing everything we can to reduce our environmental impact across the full range of our business activities. This achievement is an excellent basis from which we can really start to make a difference.’

Arbed benefits for Bron Afon tenants Almost 300 households in Torfaen are better off and have more comfortable homes thanks to a £1.5m grant from the Welsh Government. Bron Afon Community Housing was given the cash from the Arbed programme and has carried out work to 279 homes. The homes have been fitted with external wall insulation. Dave Sharman, Director of Property, said: ‘When these grants were announced we spotted a major opportunity to help tenants with high fuel bills. The timing of the funding meant that Bron Afon had to juggle work programmes but just a year later we can see big improvements.’ Benefits include lower bills, solved mould problems, more attractive homes, better weatherproofing, and also Torfaen’s carbon footprint has been reduced. The Arbed work brought extra jobs to Torfaen as the contractors employed local people. Nearly 50 people got paid jobs, work experience and apprenticeships. Bron Afon also acted as a host employer for four longterm unemployed people by creating energy warden roles.

Around the Houses September 2011 Homeless International launches Namibia Challenge Homeless International is offering individuals an opportunity to work on one of its overseas projects as it launches its Namibia Community Challenge. During the ten-day trip in July 2012, participants will work on a community project and trek through the Namibian desert to raise money in aid of people living in slums in Africa and Asia. It is a unique opportunity for those working in housing to find out firsthand how poor communities overseas are tackling housing challenges. During the first half of the Challenge, participants will work on a community-led building project which will benefit the local community and provide the opportunity to get involved with the long-term and sustainable solutions to urban poverty that Homeless International supports. The second half will be spent trekking through Namibia’s desert lands, taking in the sights of the Ugab River and Namibia’s highest mountain. Homeless International Chief Executive, Larry English, said: ‘The Namibia Community Challenge is an opportunity to make a real difference to local people by getting hands-on with a community-led project. Participants will see real changes being made by the community to overcome problems around housing, water and sanitation. Above all, they will be able to say that they have been part of this change.’ Registration for the Namibia Community Challenge is now open. For an information pack, please contact Homeless International on 024 7663 2802, email hannah@homeless-international.org or visit http://bit.ly/p9pMFk .


IN THE MIX - Similar challenges, similar goals

Around the Houses September 2011

14 October, 2-4pm The Hub, RCT Homes We are facing a range of challenges and the environment within which we work has changed significantly. Organisations invited to the initial IN THE MIX event on 13 May have an interest in making our communities better. In many instances there is significant overlap between the objectives of our different organisations and the challenges we are all looking to overcome. Identifying this overlap is important to help us work closer together, learn from each other, and undertake projects that compliment the work of others. IN THE MIX will enable us to discuss the key themes currently on the agenda on a regular basis. The first event focused on Welfare Reform, Digital Inclusion, Jobs and Training, Low Carbon Agenda, Regeneration, and Financial Inclusion. http://bit.ly/nZbLMY

Best ever survey results for Taff HA Taff Housing Association has just published the best ever results of its Tenant Satisfaction Survey, which shows that 91% of tenants are satisfied overall with the services provided for them. 94% of tenants thought the association was good at keeping them informed and 96% said staff were polite. In one of the most difficult areas to achieve high satisfaction ratings, the repairs service got a massive thumbs up at 90%. ‘These figures compare very well with national ratings, and clearly make us one of the best performing Associations not only in Wales, but in the UK,’ said Janet Bochel, Director of Customer Services. ‘I’m particularly pleased with the improvements in repairs and keeping tenants informed, as these are areas we’ve worked hard on. I’m really proud of my team!’ A number of questions in the survey, such as repairs satisfaction, are used throughout the UK in order to allow comparison between Associations’ performance.

Cynon Taf CHG - An AGM with a difference! On 6 September, Cynon Taf Community Housing Group held their Annual General Meeting and this year, they gave it a twist. Using exhibition Pods to display their work of the year, various departments were able to highlight their projects, achievements and successes to all visitors. The interactive displays at the Showcase were a huge hit and got everyone talking. The Pods highlighted the work of the Charity Group, the Tenants’ Forum and concentrated on Building a Better Future, Affordable Warmth and Energy Efficiency, Older People Services, Care & Repair Rhondda Cynon Taf, Homestep and the Local Housing Partnership. Sue Essex was one visitor Cynon Taf Community Housing Group was honoured to see at the Showcase and AGM. Sue left the event with some encouraging words: ‘It was good to see so much enthusiasm today. Cynon Taf Community Housing Group are truly an alive organisation.’ Weeks of organising and planning paid off and it really was a day enjoyed by all. Darshan Matharoo, Head of Regulation, praised the organisation on its unique format and lively atmosphere: ‘The exhibition style display was a great idea. Sitting at my desk wouldn’t have made me this aware of what the association has done… All day there was a buzz amongst everyone – there wasn’t a dull moment.’


Around the Houses - September 2011