The Homes and Communities Agency’s regulatory standards require housing associations to “articulate and deliver a comprehensive and strategic approach to achieving value for money in meeting their organisation’s objective.” Zebra must understand and make the best use of all its assets and resources. It must take into account the interests of and commitments to stakeholders, and must explain to them how it is meeting this standard.
Zebra is a very small specialist housing provider. We compete with the private sector for tenants so our housing and services have to be competitively priced, our homes have to be of at least the standard of the private sector and have to be in locations that residents want to live in. We are therefore very mindful of the need to keep our costs low, to improve the value for money of what we provide and what we do, and to provide really good quality housing. We also believe that some of the less tangible things we do to make residents feel at home are very important but are part of providing value for money. We want all our stakeholders to know that value for money in its widest sense is central to our business plan and to understand the things we are doing to achieve this.
Our most recent resident survey in 2015 told us that 95% of our residents believed we were good ‘value for money’ Additionally to seek even better value:
• We’ve just introduced a new procurement process to get the best possible value for money in all aspects of procurement but especially maintenance which recognises that our residents want quality and prompt service
• We commissioned an independent Quantity Surveying practice to review our maintenance costs and we have acted on all their recommendations to reduce them where we are able
• We estimate that our in house maintenance team generates at least £50k pa in savings from not having to use contractors and we will be adding to its capacity
• Our finance plan shows a continuing reduction in management costs as we develop
• We annually benchmark salary costs and validate them externally
• Our rents are set at between 65%-80% of the low end of the market
• We’ve reviewed our stock condition survey and have just completed the first environmental survey of one of our residences. We’re inputting all this information into our long term plans to improve our homes and their sustainability
• We spend over £100k pa just on improving our housing – having spent over £600k over the last 5 years
• We monitor the performance of each of our residences to ensure that they are providing the best possible
value to residents
• We use our strong financial position to improve our stock and provide new homes – 5 additional flats in the last year
• We provide a subsidised “ social programme” , open to all residents, providing access to a variety of cultural and sporting events which adds to residents’ appreciation of London, allows them to get to know their neighbours better and when they return to their home country can facilitate better international understanding and trade links
• We provide a “blog” for residents providing them with up to date news on cheap and topical events in London and allowing them to comment on Zebra and discuss topics with other residents
• As an indication that we are viewed as value for money our waiting list has generally over 500 applicants on it.