Lewisham Council is seeking the views of tenants and leaseholders about a proposal to bring the housing management services currently provided by Lewisham Homes under the direct control of Lewisham Council.
Lewisham Homes currently provide housing management services for about 20,000 properties. This includes things like repairs, maintenance, improvements and rent and service charge collections. Lewisham Homes is a separate company to Lewisham Council and has a contract to supply these services on behalf of the council.
The Council owns the properties and is the landlord, but does not currently manage any homes. The Council used to directly manage these homes before Lewisham Homes was set up in 2007.
Why are we consulting?
Feedback from tenants and leaseholders will help us to make a decision later this year about whether to bring housing management services under direct control of the Council.
Bringing management service in-house is something Lewisham, like councils across the country, is considering for a number of reasons:
- Following the Grenfell fire tragedy, new regulations will come into force later this year, which will give landlords extra responsibilities which must be carried out by the Council.
When Lewisham Homes was set up housing companies– or ALMOs - were able to claim extra grants that councils could not, but this funding is no longer available.
- There is a break clause in the contract with Lewisham Homes coming up, so this is a good time to consider the future of housing management services and how we can improve services for tenants and leaseholders.
- Lewisham Council is not alone is considering this change. Across the country there were 75 ALMOs. Now there are just 23, and in London there are just four, including Lewisham Homes.
The Council thinks bringing housing management under its direct control is the best option because:
- We think this will allow us to improve services for residents, provide a more joined up service (linking housing and other Council services that residents rely on) and strengthen resident voices.
- Bringing services back to the Council would give us direct control over their delivery and provide residents with increased democratic oversight.
- We also think that bringing services back under direct control can provide better value for money, for example, by avoiding duplicating services that both the Council and Lewisham Homes provide and making it easier to access support from other Council services.
Tenants and leaseholders’ rights would not change and rent levels and service charge will continue to be reviewed annually.
What would change?
Lewisham Council wants to be a good landlord, and to set an example for landlords of social housing in the borough.
We will keep properties in good repair, maintain the safety of buildings, handle tenants’ complaints effectively, engage with tenants helpfully and with respect, and take a responsible role in managing your neighbourhood.
We will publish a Lewisham Repairs Charter for all housing providers in Lewisham which will set out our commitments to improve standards, respond quickly to issues raised by residents and ensure that repairs are timely and effective.
Specifically, we make the following commitments to tenants and leaseholders currently managed by Lewisham Homes:
- We will establish a Residents’ Board and a new Tenant and Residents Association Forum to represent tenants and leaseholders and work directly with the Council as it develops the housing management service, ensuring residents are involved in all key decisions relating to how their homes are managed.
- We will invest the savings we make as a result of bringing housing management back in house to improve the service you receive.
- We will ensure that all residents continue to have a named contact who knows their area. Residents of housing blocks will also have a nominated person to deal with all safety concerns and ensure residents feel safe in their home.
- We will publish a four year investment programme of planned works to improve homes including external redecoration and planned maintenance.
- We will improve tenants’ overall satisfaction with their housing management service by making it easier for you to communicate with us, completing repairs more quickly and making staff more visible on your estate over the next four years.
- We will respond to 98% of all complaints within 10 days. Where the complaint needs further investigation and a full response within 10 days is not possible, we will let you know within five days.
The process to date
We have considered various options, which were explained in a report that was discussed by Mayor and Cabinet in July. At that meeting, it was agreed that the preferred option was to consult residents on the option to bring housing management services under direct control of the Council.
Since then, we have been working with a group of tenants and leaseholders, who have shared their thoughts about how we should run the consultation and how we can make sure we hear from as many people as possible.
Throughout August, we held engagement events on estates and in the community to provide information and hear from residents.
How to take part
Tenants and leaseholders of homes managed by Lewisham Homes will receive a copy of a short survey and information to help them make a decision, posted to their home. The letter will include a code to allow them to respond online – or they can return the survey by Freepost if they prefer.
The Council has appointed an independent company, MEL Research to carry out the consultation. They will be holding some drop-in sessions to answer any questions and help anyone who needs support to complete the survey. Find your nearest session.
We are working with TPAS, who are specialists in engaging with tenants to make sure their voices are heard. They are independent of both the Council and Lewisham Homes and are available to support residents’ groups and individual tenants who have any concerns about this process. If you have any questions or concerns about the process you can contact them on 0800 731 1619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What happens next?
The consultation closes on Friday 16 October. We want to hear as many voices as possible, so please take the time to fill out the very short survey.
Your responses will form part of a report, which will help the Mayor and Cabinet make a decision at a public meeting at the end of the year.
If you have any questions about this process and how it could affect you, you can contact Tonia Punter-Ojong, your independent tenant advisor at TPAS, on 0800 731 1619 or email@example.com.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the review happening?
The management agreement between the Council and Lewisham Homes includes a break clause which gives the Council an opportunity to consider whether it wants Lewisham Homes to continue to provide housing management services. The agreement requires the Council to give notice before the end of 2022.
The break clause provides an opportunity to consider how best to deliver - and improve – our housing management services. We want to improve services for residents, increase democratic accountability and strengthen resident voices.
What’s changed since the agreement with Lewisham Homes was signed?
When Lewisham Homes was established in 2007, additional funds were available for ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisations) to apply for. There are no longer any financial incentives for ALMOs.
The Government is also bringing in new legislation and regulations which set out the responsibilities the Council has as landlord for the service provided to tenants and their safety, which cannot be transferred to Lewisham Homes
What happens next?
Following agreement by Mayor and Cabinet on 6 July, a consultation to seek the views of tenants and leaseholders will be carried out. Work on this is now underway and we expect to begin the consultation later in the summer/early autumn.
Do residents have a say?
Yes - residents, tenants and leaseholders will be consulted and their views will be considered. Information will be provided and there will be a chance for all Lewisham Homes tenants and leaseholders to ask questions and make their views known.
This feedback will form an important part of the options appraisal, and will help Mayor and Cabinet to make a decision at the end of the year.
What is the position of the Lewisham Homes Board?
The Lewisham Homes Board supports the Council’s decision to carry out this work to ensure the best possible services for tenants and leaseholders.
What changes would tenants and leaseholders see?
We want to make sure tenants and leaseholders receive the best possible services, and that their homes are well managed and safe.
You would still see the same caretakers and repairs staff, who would be transferred over to the Council, but we believe that bringing services back in house would allow the Council to provide a more joined-up service and increase accountability.
As part of the consultation we will be asking people about their priorities for their homes and what improvements they want to see.
Have other councils brought their ALMOs in house?
The number of ALMOs has been reducing and only four London boroughs - including Lewisham - still have an ALMO.
What are the timescales for any potential changes?
Residents will be consulted over the summer and early autumn.
A final decision will take place before the end of the year.
Will any changes affect rent levels and tenancy agreements?
No, these will continue to be set by the Council in the same way they are set now. Tenancy agreements are with the Council and will not change.
If the service is brought back to the Council, how will the views of tenants and leaseholders be heard?
The Council wants to ensure that tenants and leaseholders are involved in how their homes are managed going forward. If the service is brought back to the Council alternative arrangements will be developed to replace the Lewisham Homes Board to ensure good engagement with the Council.
Would bringing housing management in-house save or cost more money?
Currently, some costs are duplicated, so bringing housing management back in-house could result in some efficiencies.