Merger consultation frequently asked questions
The consultation is open until 7 December, so you can still submit your questions and comments.
From the sessions we have developed an FAQS, these answer the most common themes that have been raised.
Why is Origin merging with Places for People?
Inflation, interest rates, the cost of living, shortages of skills and increased demands on the social housing sector mean that our operating environment is proving very challenging.
We need to build our financial strength and capacity for the future, so that we can invest more in upgrading the quality of your homes, build more homes and improve services.
Origin has grown, in part, due to mergers over the years. This partnership is a further evolution to adapt to the conditions we are working in by strengthening our ability to deliver on our social purpose in the long term, and to do more of the things that residents and communities want and need.
Will my rent and service charges increase?
Your rents will remain at their current levels and will only go up once a year in line with government regulations or what is set out in your tenancy agreement. These rules apply to both Origin and Places for People.
Service charges are also reviewed on a yearly basis. Your service charge covers the direct cost of services we provide to your block and/or estate. You will continue receive a breakdown of these costs with your rent letter as you do now.
We do not make a profit on rent and service charges; these are used to pay for delivering services to you and investing in your homes and communities.
Will my tenancy or lease terms and conditions change?
There will be no change to the terms of your tenancy or lease. Places for People, like Origin are a regulated social housing provider, so they have to adhere to the same rules.
Will there be staff changes?
There will be no change for Origin employees. Both the Board and the Senior team will remain in place and, with the support of the Places For People group, will continue to have oversight of our finances and governance. This means that you will still deal with the same people as you do now.
Will the merger with a large organisation mean that we lose local accountability?
Our services will continue to be delivered in the same way and we will continue to work to listen to your views and reflect these in service improvement plans. We chose Places for People, in part, because they are committed to more locally responsive and accountable services.
Places for People have just published their customer annual report, so you can read more about customer engagement.
How will services be delivered?
All services like repairs reporting, paying rent and service charges or raising issues with our customer services team or neighbourhood manager will continue to be delivered by existing staff from existing offices.
Will I have the right to buy my home?
‘Right to buy’ does not apply to the vast majority of housing association homes. There is a ‘right to acquire’ for homes built after 1989 which offers a discount on the market rate. We also build, own and manage shared ownership homes where you can buy a % of the value of the property (usually from 25%) and pay rent on the remaining %. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Will I be able to move into a Places for People home?
There may be a possibility in the future but at this stage, moving home options will be the same as they are now. If you want to find a new home you can look for a mutual exchange which means you swap homes with another tenant. This can be anywhere in the UK through the Home swapper service and requires landlord permission. Origin also has a transfer list for those in high levels of need for example significant overcrowding or severe health issues.
Will Gilmartins still deliver the repairs service?
Yes. We will continue to work with suppliers where we already have a contract in place.
How will the extra investment promised by Places for People be used?
We will use the information we have from our new stock condition survey to prioritise and plan and will share this with residents.
Why did Origin choose Places for People? What was the process?
The Board wanted to secure significant additional investment in residents homes, support the continued building of new affordable homes in our local communities and achieve financial security for the long term, and to join an organisation which reflected Origin’s long held values and ambitions.
An expert housing consultant was commissioned to review potential partners in the social housing sector and which of these could best deliver on our objectives. A long list was whittled down to a short list and we decided to approach Places for People as the organisation most likely to offer what we were looking for. After several months of discussion we each concluded that a merger would meet our objectives and be to the advantage of both organisations, so we announced the proposal and began the process of consulting stakeholders and carrying out due diligence (a detailed check on each others organisation).
What is ‘in it’ for Places for People?
Places for People own and manage around 3,000 homes in London but don’t have a strategic presence in London or the home counties. They see the value of Origin’s knowledge of the London housing market, our positive relationships with strategic partners (eg the Greater London Authority and local Councils) and our experience of providing homes and services in a unique and often challenging location, as well as our long established history, ethos and values. We will also bring into the group the value of the housing stock, which further strengthens PfPs long term financial capacity.
What is the structure of Places for People and how do they ‘make their money’?
Places for People Group Limited is a company limited by guarantee, and the parent of the group. Origin is a Community Benefit Society. A company limited by guarantee and a community benefit society are, for all intents and purposes, the same. Both are ‘not for profit’, and invest any profits back into the business. The objectives of both organisations are for social purpose. Just like Origin, PfP is also registered under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, which means that it is regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing.
This screenshot below is taken from PfP’s Articles of Association, which are available in full to anyone on Companies House here:
They also have a group charity called ‘The Places Foundation’, which provides grants and social investment to ‘improve the lives of People and Communities that have experienced disadvantage and are furthest from the labour market’
The company structure chart includes a number of different companies which provide specialist and/or commercial services to the Group. Commercial activity provides additional income to the Group to supplement rental income and deliver on its social purpose to serve residents and communities.
What will happen to my home and security in the long term?
Your security is protected by your tenancy or lease agreement and the fact that Places for People is regulated by the Social Housing Regulator and must meet regulatory standards, which include the quality of homes and services.
What do existing Places for People residents think of their service?
- 80.9% of PfP residents were satisfied with their services
- 86% were satisfied with the repairs and maintenance service
Social media platforms provide a very partial view so we would urge residents to rely on the independently validated survey results published by PfP.
More information can be found on the PfP website www.placesforpeople.co.uk
What is the role of the Independent Resident Adviser?
Glenn Allum has been appointed by Origin with the involvement of the Spotlight (resident representative) committee to provide a further channel for residents to ask questions and feedback and to provide a report to Board on the outcomes of the resident consultation. His contact details are shown here News and Events - Origin Housing
At a recent meeting, one of several reasons mentioned for a merger was the increase in focus on dealing with damp and mould. Looking at some of the complaints documented on Places for People social media page, there are a series of reports of unsatisfactory dealing of this issue by PfP. I wonder how this reconciles with your aim.
We already have an increased focus on damp and mould here at Origin, but we do need more resource to manage it and the additional investment which will come in from Places for People to improve resident’s homes will help. We will continue to deliver these services locally. People do tend to resort to social media if they are unhappy with a service, so it is to be expected that complaints dominate these platforms. Clearly things do sometimes go wrong, but Places for People’s independent customer surveys show a high level of satisfaction overall.
Whilst it may well be thriving, PfP seems to be very much a business enterprise.,rather than a housing orientated service. This does not really match the ethos of St Pancras Housing Association. I appreciate that much has changed but it would be good to retain those principles.
Whilst Places for People is a large company, social housing activity is at its core, with the commercial aspects of its business carried out to generate surplus to reinvest in homes and services. It is regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing in the same way as Origin. We chose Places for People because their ethos and aims align with Origin and reflect the principles of our founders.
Big, is not always beautiful and we should be retaining and moving towards smaller more decentralised, rather that corporate structures. Is it always desirable to aim to be market leaders, to continually strive for growth? New build has been portrayed as a symbol of progress and a thriving economy, but the reality is often the opposite. The built environment consumes around 40 per cent of the world’s extracted materials. Together, building and construction generate 39 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. Isn't it worthwhile to provide a high quality local stable housing service?
This proposed partnership is not about striving for growth. It is about providing long term security to ensure the continued provision of good quality affordable homes, and services which are responsive to the needs of residents and local communities. We do also consider it is important to build more affordable homes to address the housing crisis as well as install energy efficiency measures and other interventions which help tackle climate change. The proposed partnership will enable and support this investment.
Has a consortium of small, local Housing Associations been considered to enable purchase at scale of materials and other services where appropriate?
We already take part in a number of procurement networks with other Housing Associations. However, the intense financial pressures we face due to higher costs and additional demands on the housing sector can’t be addressed purely through more effective procurement, though do we expect the partnership with Places for People – due to its scale and in house resources and expertise - to enable better value for money to be obtained from contracted services and purchasing of goods.
It is clear that finance is the major consideration: what are PfP's commitments in the short term with regards to Origin properties and are property sell-offs part of future plans?
At present we are having to sell some of our housing stock to assist our viability but if the merger goes ahead we will be able to stop doing so. Places for People are very keen to keep our social housing.