Question 1: Although Covid has been difficult for every company, what have the board undertaken over the last year in regard to their carbon footprint to help the planet not only in regard to their staff and office buildings but their housing stock as well. In particular, what are your plans for the future for all housing stock over 10 years old to reduce carbon emissions and should you be working with customers on a higher scale to do this?
Answer: Great question. We know our customers, colleagues, and partners care about our impact on the environment and how we’re working to improve it and 2020 has put a real spotlight on environmental issues as we all see some of the benefits of living our lives in a different way…from a sustainability point of view anyway.
In Home Group, we have a sustainability steering group, led by our executive director of business development with representatives from across the organisation.
This group has also been part of the creation of a sector group called Greener Futures partnership which exists to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency of homes, while reducing fuel poverty and improving living conditions for our residents, and ultimately driving wider social value through the greening of the UK’s social housing stock.
It will do this by pooling combined resources and expertise to tackle the challenge of sustainable housing and in the longer term to help bring down the costs for greener sustainable heating systems in homes through joint procurement.
As an organisation we take our responsibility around sustainability very seriously indeed. We are acting on four key areas:
1. Our existing homes
With over 55,000 homes in hundreds of communities, we are focused on improving their energy efficiency. It’s the right thing to do for the environment, and we hope it will also help to reduce the risk of fuel poverty for some customers too. We’re doing this in line with the government’s fuel poverty strategy and we’ll make sure that as many of our homes as possible achieve an EPC rating (a review of a property’s energy efficiency) of C by 2030.
We are also developing our response to net carbon zero by 2050, and it’s earlier for Scotland.
We’re also currently working with Net-Zero Collective on a pilot scheme in the North West, to see how we can get some of our homes in the north west to be more energy-efficient and meet net-zero carbon targets by 2050.
This pilot will benefit all customers as it will help us to; understand how we can best improve our current and new homes to make them more energy efficient (this could include installing low carbon heating and hot water systems) and share the most relevant and useful energy saving advice with customers. We’ve also commissioned academic research on retrofitting renewable energy systems with Newcastle University.
2. Our new homes
When we’re building new homes and communities, for potential customers to rent or buy, we’re building them so they are fit for the future. We’re consulting with customers on the design standards around our new homes, and we’ve launched a group called green ambassadors so that we can constantly listen to and learn from customers as we’re building new homes, and improving the energy efficiency of the ones we already have. If you’d like to be part of it, get in touch with our involvement team, we’d love to hear from you.
3. Our offices and operations
Our approach to sustainability isn’t only about helping our customers to reduce energy use, it’s also about us operating as sustainably as possible. Our colleagues are passionate about it and we want to lead by example. We’re already recycling, and we’re looking at colleague travel, office energy, plastic and water usage, emissions from our contractors and diverting waste from landfill to minimise our environmental impact. We’re also ISO14001 accredited – which helps us effectively monitor and measure our environmental impact and performance.
4. Our supply chain
We expect our partners and suppliers to take sustainability seriously. We’re making sure the products we buy for our homes and offices have as little negative environmental impact as possible, from recycled paper and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products to low flow taps and showers. Our procurement team makes sure that sustainability is thought about every time we purchase goods and services.
Question 2: All the time during COVID lock-down Home Group continued to charge maintenance fees, yet no maintenance was done. Why have tenants and residents etc not been reimbursed?
Answer: 2020 was a challenge for everyone, and sometimes we have had to prioritise emergency and safety work for the safety of customers and colleagues. We know that delivering a reliable repairs service is an important part of our customer promise and we've been carrying out repairs throughout the last year where it's been safe to do so.
From March 2020 to March 2021 we completed over 150,000 repairs across the UK and we’ve also been able to launch an update to our online service, My Home Account, which means that customers who rent a property from us are able to track the progress of repairs.
Question 3: Sometimes though, and on more than one occasion mild-moderate repairs take more than several months - years to action or are lost in the system. Taking into account a change of maintenance service provider. Is there a realistic timescale to fix an issue at the very latest? If so, for future reference, who should I raise concerns to if arranged works go beyond a proposed/set deadline?
Answer: We set up our maintenance contracts to deliver against our customer promise and
Where things take longer it's usually because the work required:
If things are going to take longer than our customer promise, our teams should tell you that. For example we’ve recently been telling customers work could take up to 12 weeks as we recover from Covid-19. If things go beyond the time scale you were given or you expect, you should contact our customer service team on 0345 141 4663.
Question 4: What percentage of complaints have been escalated to stage two?
Answer: We publish this information in our financial reports. Last year 2019/2020 it was 8%. We’re currently finalising our financial reporting for this year and the 2020/2021 figures will be included in there before September.
Question 5: What percentage of repairs were completed last year?
In our 2020/2021 financial year (April 2020 - March 2021) we raised 165617 repairs jobs (routine and emergencies) and we currently have 797 of those outstanding, so that’s 99.52% of work completed.
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