Formally coming together: a new opportunity for United Communities
United Communities was set up in 2013 as a strategic alliance between two associations – Bristol Community Housing Foundation (BCHF) and United Housing Association (UHA). The alliance has been in place for nearly 4 years and the two associations have been able to share services and staff. By working together, we have made significant financial savings which we have invested in improving our services and building new homes. We now have the opportunity to legally merge the two associations to form United Communities as one organisation.
We believe this is the best option for us as it would reduce some of the paperwork and red tape in operating two separate associations and enable us to borrow more money to build the affordable homes that are so desperately needed. There would be little difference to you as residents, all our main services would stay the same and your tenancy rights and conditions would not change. Before the Board make a final decision on this we want to hear your views about us formally coming together as United Communities.
We have tried to answer some of the questions you might have below.
We consulted staff and residents about the planned merger in February and March 2017. The feedback gathered will inform the Board and Shareholder decision, due to be made in June 2017.
Would any of the options affect my tenancy or rent?
The name of your landlord would formally change to United Communities but all other tenancy conditions, statutory rights and the rent you pay would not change.
Who you pay your rent to would change – so instead of BCHF or United HA it would be paid to United Communities. All direct debits would change automatically and if you are claiming Housing Benefit we would notify your benefit office.
We would not change the level of rent as we can only charge at a level set by the government and United Communities must continue to comply with these rules. If you are a leaseholder, it wouldn’t affect your lease.
What’s in it for me as a tenant?
You may not see much of a change, aside from the change of name of your landlord to United Communities. You would have the same staff working with you, have the same office and website to refer to and we would keep the same policies and handbook. But by merging we could save more on our costs. We would also be able to build more homes through the efficiency savings from the merger.
Would I still be able to get my repairs done?
Yes we would still provide a 24/7 repairs service for all tenants; we would be using our contractors to help us to provide a better service.
Would you still deliver services locally and offer a personal service?
Yes, absolutely! United Communities is committed to providing services locally. We intend to remain in our office in Eastville, Bristol as this is local to the majority of our homes. It allows us to provide a great service and value for money. We also have a number of staff who are out and about in your community regularly. Look on our website or Facebook for more information when they will next be in your area. Staff would remain the same.
Is this a proposal or is it actually happening?
We have been working under the United Communities umbrella for 4 years and feel that the time is right to formally merge. The Board are legally responsible for making this decision but before any final decision, we want to hear your views. We have fully reviewed the impact of the merger and have used a team of legal advisors to support us.
Do tenants need to vote?
No – tenants are not asked to vote but we want to know your views. The period for replies ends on Friday 10th March 2017.
Would I still have the opportunity to get involved as a tenant of the new organisation?
Yes – we remain committed to working with tenants to help shape and scrutinise our services. Join our United Voices – which is a group of involved residents. See our website at www.unitedcommunities.org.uk/getinvolved or contact Becky Whitmore on Becky@unitedcommunities.org.uk.
Would I still have the opportunity to buy my home?
We know many of you have asked about this. We are awaiting guidance from the government on this but this merger would not affect your position once we know what the government intend to do.
Would I still receive the same services as I do now?
Yes, we intend to keep the housing officer patches the same and we would also maintain our tenancy support services, our ‘Into Work’ offer and our Communities team. Our repairs team would remain the same and you would report repairs in exactly the same way as you do now.
When would the merger take place?
Our current thinking is that the merger would take place in September 2017, but this is subject to change and we will keep you updated on this.
How can I find out more?
We will update you with progress in our Spring 2017 newsletter and at our Annual Resident’s Conference on the 29th March 2017 at The Hub, Fedden Buildings, Gainsborough Square, Lockleaze, Bristol, BS7 9FB. Please come along to this event.