10 years of working together
To mark Watford Community Housing’s tenth birthday, we celebrated what we achieved over our first decade. In this third instalment, we looked at how partnership working has helped us work effectively for our residents.
Whether it’s establishing innovative joint ventures with development partners, involving tenants in our decision-making, working with local councillors to address community issues, or liaising with contractors to deliver better services, working together is central to our success. By working with our many partners over the last ten years, we have been able to improve homes, support a wide range of initiatives and build much-needed new homes.
Working together with the community
During our first ten years we have provided funding and support to a range of initiatives to help strengthen our local community areas, collaborating with volunteers, other organisations and individuals who want our help to get good ideas off the ground.
Some of our most important partnerships are with organisations which provide vital services for our tenants. We work closely with public support services such as Hertfordshire Constabulary, Herts Fire and Rescue and the NHS to help tackle issues that can affect our residents – such as your health, crime and anti-social behaviour. Other voluntary sector organisations including Citizens Advice, Watford Women’s Centre and the Watford Credit Union are also important channels for us to use, as their expertise provides solutions and positive change that helps people to live happier lives.
We also support and work alongside independent organisations and social enterprises that need funding to make a difference in Hertfordshire. For example, we helped fund the Watford Cycle Hub, which provides cycling services to people in the local area, and the Green Canteen, which promotes positive mental and physical health through gardening and homemade crafts We also support programmes like BeeZee Bodies, a scheme which supports healthy eating and lifestyles for families, by allowing them to use our community spaces at a reduced rate and funding their Hertfordshire programmes.
We work collaboratively with lots of other partners across Watford and Three Rivers. Safer Watford, Cleaner Communities and the Community Navigator scheme are initiatives which see groups of organisations – such as Watford Borough Council, Hertfordshire Constabulary and Veolia – work together to improve neighbourhoods. By combining our funds, resources, knowledge and workforces we achieve more than we could do individually.
We also work closely with resident groups whose role is to represent local people, including our tenants. Residents’ associations exist in many of areas of Watford and Three Rivers. They play a crucial role in giving residents a voice – helping us to ensure that our work benefits these communities. We’re really grateful for the volunteers who run these groups, as they work hard to speak on behalf of others, including those who may be less able to come and share their views directly with us. Residents’ associations also run their own projects, which facilitate and stimulate conversation and community spirit for the benefit of everyone.
Working together with tenants
Just as it was when we were established in 2007, one of our key guiding principles is to place the views and involvement of tenants at the core of our organisation. At the heart of our commitment to empowering our residents is the Gateway Membership Team (GMT) which represents tenants and leaseholders, making sure that their views are heard and helping to influence how we are run.
The GMT has worked with us on a variety of important projects over the last ten years. For example, when we first needed an office to work from, they helped us choose Gateway House and the décor we would use. Later, they helped to guide the choice of a new phone system to ensure that tenants could get through to our customer service centre more easily and quickly. GMT members also played an active role in selecting the contractor for our five-year improvement programmes, to make sure that tenants would receive a good service, as well as being happy with the quality of the upgrades to their homes. More recently, members of the GMT attended a workshop along with a number of other tenants to shape the design of our new branding, which is being launched to coincide with our 10th birthday celebrations this year.
We are grateful for the contributions made by everyone who has been a part of the GMT over the last ten years – some of whom have been with us for many years, influencing the organisation as it changes and grows. Their hard work and enthusiasm for representing tenants and working in partnership with us has been a key part of our achievements over the last decade.
Working together with local authorities and councillors
With the need for additional housing greater than ever before, we have also established innovative partnerships with nearby local authorities to build more new homes. Through Three Rivers Homes, our joint venture with Three Rivers District Council, we are delivering homes in South Oxhey, while Hart Homes – our joint venture company with Watford Borough Council – is currently working on a development of affordable homes (including some homes for temporary accommodation) near Tolpits Lane.
We have worked closely with Watford Borough Council ever since their housing stock was transferred to us in 2007. This link between our organisation and the local authorities in Watford and Three Rivers has remained very strong, and we often work alongside each other, pooling our resources to deliver community initiatives and tackle problems when they arise. We’ve also recently been forging new relationships with the councils in Hertsmere and Dacorum, as we begin to look further afield to develop new homes.
We also communicate regularly with local councillors, helping them to represent you more effectively and, in turn, they help to spread the message of what we do back to the wider community.
Working together with housing and development partners
With over 5,000 homes to look after – alongside an aspiration to build 1,000 new homes – teaming up effectively with partner organisations helps us to maintain our existing homes to a high standard and meet our development goals.
We work with a number of people to keep your home and your neighbourhood in shape, including cleaning contractors, gardening companies, organisations which help monitor your amenities such as water and gas, and specialist maintenance teams, such as Temple Lifts. These partners have helped us provide vital services for you over the years.
Our contracted partners don’t just work on our buildings – many of them also help us in reaching out to the community. For example, some of our improvement programme contractors have joined us in working closely with local schools or voluntary organisations, holding assemblies, competitions and sponsoring events. By going the extra mile, these partners help to ensure that our work together does even more to make a positive impact on the local community.
Whilst we have a lot of experience planning and delivering new homes, actually building them isn’t our speciality, so we have worked with a variety of building contractors – as well as architects, designers, environmental specialists and local historians, each team playing a vital role in getting our homes ready for new tenants. We’ve also recently entered into a joint venture with Mears New Homes which is allowing us to deliver homes through a private-led development, which will include affordable housing as well as homes for market sale.
We work hard with our partners to ensure that new homes are delivered with the minimum inconvenience to nearby residents. Our first improvement programme contractor, Mulalleys, received a silver award under the Considerate Constructors scheme, which recognises contractors who take a more caring approach to residents in the local area. More recently, Jarvis achieved a bronze award under the same scheme for our new homes at Lincoln Green Court.
Working together – for you and with you
We have now been working together with our communities and all of our other valued partners for 10 years to make your homes and neighbourhoods the best they can be. Our tenants remain at the heart of our work and you have been crucial to many of our greatest successes so far – which is why our vision is to deliver ‘better homes, friendlier communities – together’.