As part of our 25th anniversary celebrations, our Director of Housing and Communities Lynda Sagona takes a look at the culture of United Welsh and how that has shaped the way we deliver for our communities.
Who was it that said ‘the only thing that is constant is change’? Having Googled it I can confirm it was Heraclitus. I’ve not met him but it is a good quote!
Gosh, have we all seen some change in the past five years? … and much of that change has been challenging. But it has challenged us to work differently, with tenants, with partners and as a team and while we may have been fearful of it and nervous about the future (just as I was when I joined the organisation 5 years ago!) we can now look back and recognise that actually that change, in many cases imposed on us by the external environment, has resulted in some very positive outcomes. Gone are the days when we did things because ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’.
The prospect of Welfare Reform caused us to take a step back, review how we work with our tenants and really consider how best we can align our services and our support. So what’s changed as a result of that? We talk to our tenants more and we know much more about them. We see our tenants more – some of them now work with us and many help us to develop our services. We meet with them to support them with money management. We tailor delivery of information and services to meet individual needs.
We are thinking outside of the traditional box and we recognise that we will need to continue to do this. If we are to address need in an environment of significantly reduced public spending, we must continue to work flexibly, to develop new solutions to housing need, to feel confident to flex tenures and to deliver services in new ways.
When I joined the sector it was very traditional in its approach to service delivery. At United Welsh we’ve broken the mould. Our asset management delivery model, embodied in Celtic Horizons, is the first of its kind in Wales, employing our tenants and offering training opportunities. We deliver repairs on a day and at a time to suit the customer, minimising visits with the introduction of the Complete Property Service. We work productively with social enterprise partners. There’s more to do but we are continually listening and learning.
The recent partnerships we have developed are fresh and sustainable. They are not partnerships that are imposed on us but those forged from shared values and a common vision to make a difference to people’s lives. If ten years ago someone had said that a Registered Social Landlord would develop, in partnership with the Local Authority, a library and a clinic at the heart of a town centre regeneration initiative, making a massive difference to the community, people would have laughed and told us to stick with building homes.
At United Welsh we are very lucky to have a team that is always up for the challenge, constantly reviewing what we are doing and how we are doing it. To have a team that is so engaged and committed to doing its best for our customers provides us with such a fantastic platform for development and creativity. It is the ‘Can Do’ attitude.
More change ahead? I think that Heraclitus would say deffo… Are we up for it? Deffo!
By Dr John Littlewood, Sustainability Consultant
In 2012, I worked with United Welsh’s Head of Development Gareth Davies to win one of the tranche seven post construction and in-use grants for Y Llaethdy from the Technology Strategy Board, as part of the £8 Million UK-wide programme for Building Performance Evaluation (BPE).
Y Llaethdy is a low impact and partially low carbon micro-community of 13 households (9 flats and 4 houses) off Aberfawr Terrace in Abertridwr. It is owned by United Welsh and was built in 2010 by Green Hill Ltd. The houses and flats were designed and built to Development Quality Requirement (DQR) standards and levels three and four respectively of the code for sustainable homes. Eight of the flats were built to low carbon and low impact standards following funding from DECC.
Since we won the funding in 2012, we have been monitoring the performance of all the properties to measure how sustainable they are.
As part of this work, we have interviewed tenants about their experiences of living at Y Llaethdy, as well as the design and delivery team on the design and construction intentions for the project. We have also been monitoring the climatic conditions, internal conditions and energy use in four properties since July 2013.
We are doing this to better understand how the properties perform in comparison to an ever changing climate; whether and how building design and heating and ventilation system design intentions have translated into construction and operation; and how occupants behave and use their homes.
We will continue to monitor and evaluate the performance of Aberfawr Terrace until September this year, with the results used to establish new standards of building performance.
Watch this space!
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