Homes for Wells (HfW) now have 20 houses and flats in total, and we are currently housing 50 local adults and children.
Our catchment is the Parish of Wells and surrounding parishes of Warham, Wighton, Stiffkey and Holkham which we consider as one integrated area for the application of our policies and procedures.
The late Frank Dye very kindly bequested his home, ‘Wanderers’ to HfW, which was used for two tenancies before it was sold. A large part of the proceeds funded a 2 bed house at Camping Hill in Stiffkey, overlooking Blakeney Point, which, we believe Frank Dye would have loved. The house has been named ‘Frank Dye House’.
We have two very generous local benefactors who have both lent us their homes in Wells for a 10 year period. We would always be interested in discussing similar arrangements with other second home owners in Wells. We manage one property, collecting rent and providing some maintenance for a fee. We own long Leaseholds on two flats and we own the Freehold on two other flats, which we have acquired from Victory.
We have 10 flats and one house at the Old School, formerly the Field Study Centre, which was opened to our tenants early in 2015 and we own one other house in Wells. The Allocations Committee are all volunteers and are responsible for banding our applicants and proposing applicants to the Board when one of our houses becomes available. The Committee includes two Co-opted members, who are both long term Wells residents and have both been with HfW for over 10 years and three Board Members. We meet quarterly. With Wells being a close knit community and social media as it is, we are aware that occasionally there is frustration with our decisions and proposals. However we believe that, although we are not perfect, our key purpose is to work objectively both in banding applicants and in making our selections for the Board. We would encourage any of our applicants to contact us whenever they would like further clarification on our decisions.
The following Bandings have been agreed with the North Norfolk District Council.
Band A: Key workers with at least 5 year residency in the Parish of Wells or adjoining Parishes, in insecure accommodation and with insufficient funds to rent or buy on the open market.
Band B: As for Band A, but with at least 3 years residency
Band C: Not key workers, but with at least 5 years residency and in insecure accommodation and insufficient funds to rent or buy.
Band D: As for Band C, but with at least 3 years residency.
Band E: As for Band D, but not necessarily in insecure accommodation.
Band F: A key worker who wants to live in the parish or adjoining parishes but has no connection and cannot afford to rent or buy.
Band G: Not a key worker and has lived in the parish and cannot afford to rent or buy, but may have family connections.
Band H: Someone who wants to live here, but with no connection.
While we do like to receive applications from key workers, the reality is that of our 20 houses and flats, currently only 6 are tenanted by key workers and the balance of our tenants are local individuals, couples or young families who have lived in Wells most of their lives but were mostly living in overcrowded situations or facing eviction and could not afford to rent locally. Currently we have no Band A and Band B applicants, but we do have a solid group of band C’s fitting this description.
As you can see, as well as looking to attract key workers, we are also looking to support local residents and people making a contribution to the community for 3-5 years at least, who are not key workers. Our applicants will have the right to live here and will be making a contribution to Wells, either working hard or needing to depend on Social Benefits to make ends meet.
If you are thinking of applying and would like more information please contact the HfW office and speak to Kady Riches or Lotte Wynder on 01328 711703.
Or if you would like more information on the process of bequesting, or on the process of providing a house to HfW for a minimum 6 year rent free period, (which matches the security of tenure we offer our tenants), please also call Kady or Lotte.
Our Allocation Policy, including a description of key workers, is available to all on our website.
Chair, HfW Allocations Committee
We recently held our Strategy Day to update our plans for the future, and to include our five recent board members, in shaping our renewed aims and objectives. It was a very good day in bringing everyone together, and we greatly appreciate the thoughtful contributions made by all those attending. Christopher Pike’s help as facilitator, freely given, was invaluable, and our guest speaker, Graham Connolly, from NNDC Housing was highly complimentary, not only about our Strategy Day but also about the range of strengths, and balance of HfW’s Board. It’s good to know how others see us and hear how our reputation stands tall. We really appreciate the help, guidance and support Graham and his colleagues from NNDC give us.
We are also continuing our review of internal processes and procedures and extend our very sincere thanks to the following :
Eleanor Crisp, who lead us in an in-depth risk and gap analysis to prepare us for moving on to the next level, assisted by Chrissie Farley, who is helping with Governance and compliance.
Pippa Cooke, for designing our attractive new website (check it out at homesforwells.com) and updating our computer and office systems. She is ably assisted by Jane Berwick who has also with Michael Martin joined in leading our expanded housing team and given us the benefit of their wide experience in that area too.
Many thanks to Johanna Tennant also, for expertly project managing the renovation of our three new properties. Our tenants have moved in to their new homes and are now comfortably settled.
Our volunteer board generally contribute far more than than usual trustee/board member roles, and we are deeply indebted to them. Without the benefit of all their hard work we could not continue the ongoing successful running of HfW. We may be small but we have to carry out many of the same functions and processes as larger housing associations do.
Even so, we cannot rest on our laurels. The affordable housing crisis, has come very close to home with the arrival of a homeless person, camping in our midst, and other potentially homeless persons whom we have sadly been unable to house, with no vacant properties to offer.
There are clearly still many young people and families being forced out of communities they call home, despite steps taken by the district and town councils, housing associations, charities, and our North Norfolk MP to tackle the problem.
House prices in parts of North Norfolk continue to rise while wages remain stagnant.
North Norfolk has the fourth highest number of second-owned homes in the country, which makes it impossible for many people to buy or rent a home in their own community.
As a result, many families are still forced out, as incoming buyers and holiday lets push house prices further out of their reach.
Recent articles in the EDP regularly report on the crisis: There are now over 6,000 affordable homes in north Norfolk, but a desperate need for more. Social landlord Victory Housing Trust’s chief executive John Archibald said last year: “This year we will spend about £17.5m on new homes, which equates to 190 affordable homes, and us spending about £47,000 a day. You could build 2,000 new homes tomorrow and they would all be filled. Keeping young people in north Norfolk is a challenge”.
“The average house price in north Norfolk is now about £250,000 which is 12 times the average annual salary of £20,000. This is still the case despite some falls In property prices elsewhere due to the general political uncertainty. One of the worst affected towns is Wells where almost a third of all homes are second homes”.
NNDC continues to support the creation of community led affordable homes by using S106 planning agreements; through identifying strategic housing needs and the Community Housing Fund of £2.4m.Homes for Wells Hopes to access further funding from national and local funding bodies to help us with planning our next project. However we still rely greatly on local fundraising.
Please look out for our latest fun Food and Drinks Quiz sheets which will be available from the following at just £1: Our office at 3, The Sackhouse, Ele & Me, Bang and The Golden Fleece. Complete and submit them to our office to enter into our draw. The prize will be a meal for two at the Golden Fleece. Please make sure that your applications are in before 31st May.
We are very pleased to announce that we have just completed the purchase of three flats in Northfield Waye from Victory Housing Trust. This has taken a long time, but we had to be sure that we had established the full story of the fire that affected two of them. Believe it or not, the source of the fire was a mobile phone charger! This underlines the importance of never leaving anything electric switched on when you go out.
Now we have two newly refurbished flats (and one more, also in good condition), nearly ready for their new tenants. We will soon be carrying out fire safety reviews, and checking all our homes again to make sure they are safe.
At HfW, we have always tried to do our best to take measures to prevent and minimise the risk of fire. We use a professional fire safety advisor to check our properties. We have installed smoke and C02 alarms, and we fit fire doors, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. We carry out annual checks to try to ensure that everything is working as it should, as well as regular gas and boiler checks, and that all fire exits are clear of rubbish. However we do rely on our tenants to spot and tell us about any problems between annual checks. We want people to be aware of the risk of fire, to take sensible precautions and to think about what they would do if it happened to them. This applies to everybody, not just to our tenants and we are always looking for extra ways of keeping people safe.
Here are our top safety tips:
Make a fire action plan and practise it, so everyone in your home knows how to escape and raise the alarm
Fit smoke alarms on each level in your home.
Make sure they work by testing your smoke alarm regularly, by pushing the test button.
Make everyone familiar with the best way out of the building
Make sure everyone can easily find door and window keys.
Think about a room you can go to where you can be seen
from outside, and rescued if necessary.
Get into the habit of closing all doors at night.
Do not block access roads to your building.
Think how you and each person in your home will escape.
Keep a safety torch where it’s most needed
Make sure you know where gas, electricity and water isolation taps are
Make sure those taps are lubricated and easy to turn off
Get your washing machine and dishwasher and other appliances serviced regularly
Make sure the water outlets are firmly secured in the exit pipes to prevent flooding
Unplug kettles and other small appliances when you are away
Take care in the kitchen! Cooking accidents account for 59% of fires in the home
When grilling; frying, or cooking with hot oil, only use temperature controlled deep fat fryers.
Think twice about using candles - battery candles are safer), and never leave lit candles unattended, especially when there are children about
Don’t smoke, or use electronic cigarettes indoors - if faulty they can cause a fire
Keep matches and lighters away from children
Keep clothing away from heating and cooking appliances
Take special care when you are tired or have been drinking. Half of all deaths in domestic fires happen between 10pm and 8am
Keep all doors and exits clear
Don’t try to use fire extinguishers if the fire is already well advanced
Use your kitchen fire blanket if the fire is small and contained
In the event of fire in your home - alert everyone
Immediately leave your home and go outside to a safe area, shutting the doors behind you
Call 999, use a mobile phone or a phone box, give the address including the number of your home and tell them exactly where the fire is
Gather together in a safe place away from the building
Have a head count
Don’t go back in. Don’t go back in. Not for anything!
Many thanks for trying to stay safe!
Empty homes and derelict buildings inflame public opinion when there is so much pressure on the availability of affordable homes. Some well-known local people drew our attention to the overgrown and neglected units at Maryland with a graphic picture on social media. This is the building many of us would recall as ‘the old jam factory’ run by Cartwright and Butler. To see what was a fairly new building run to ruin is a terrible waste, and an eye sore. However this has led to good discussion about empty social housing in Northfield and all the empty homes that are only available for holiday lets. At Homes for Wells we really support anything we can all do to help our local people live in the town. Affordable homes for local people are sorely needed.
First, the good news! By the time the February “Quay” is distributed, three homes in Northfield Waye will have new tenants moving in. These are properties which Victory are selling to Homes for Wells, and not on the open market. But it is fair to say that it’s taken months longer than we expected. The reason is that the legal requirements are much more complex than a few years ago, including those faced by the board of Homes for Wells. We have to ensure there are no surprises in future years, because our finances are limited and we must be prudent in our spending. Our Board members give their time and skills unpaid – in some cases, a great many hours – and we are grateful for their contribution of time and care. It keeps our costs down and makes it possible to spread our budget further to provide more affordable homes. We are doing our best to buy any former Council houses and flats in Wells, which come on the market to offer to local people. But unfortunately we don’t have the funds to buy all those which become available. With our current purchase of three flats, if we could have afforded it, we could’ve stretched this to two more flats which were on the market at the same time, but we simply didn’t have the funds to buy all five. It was very frustrating to have to limit ourselves to three flats.Thanks to Annie and team and all of their efforts, we achieve a lot, but we rely heavily on donations and grants. This is really important, because once the homes are lost to our Wells social housing stock, they are very hard to replace. According to the press about 40% of right to buy homes end up in the hands of private landlords, and this at a time when the housing situation nationally is in crisis.
Now, returning to the obstacles to development at Maryland, Jennifer’s example is a perfect “brownfield” site. It needs to be brought into use to provide housing, or if that is not possible, jobs for local people. Once it was our station, with trains to take you to Norwich in as little as 42 minutes. Holidaymakers could come to Wells without a car. If only…..! But the station platforms were demolished and industrial units put in their place. “Brownfield” means land that was previously built on. It is better for the environment to use this instead of farmland. Maryland is zoned for industrial use, but surely the margins of the zone could be changed where there is no longer enough industry or employment? We have raised this with the Planners, but their hands are tied by flood defence issues. No homes may be built where there is a risk of flooding. This rule is unlikely ever to change. And yet….there are many places along the coast where living accommodation is built on the first floor of a quayside or waterfront, and the ground floor is allocated to parking only.
Homes for Wells will continue to advocate this solution and hope it will be included in the “Neighbourhood Plan”. And our thanks to Jennifer and others for highlighting our cause – all ideas gratefully received!
Are you thinking of making a gift or donation this Christmas?
Homes for Wells continues to grow and is always looking for new properties. To do this we rely greatly on generous donations to help us to buy, refurbish and provide secure homes for local families. As part of our fundraising, each year we invite generous people to make a donation to help out those in our local area who have no home of their own.
Perhaps you are in receipt of a winter fuel allowance, which you feel you might like to contribute. Or are you perhaps a second or holiday home owner and would like to donate, say, one week’s rent?
With your donation you know you are helping someone local, in real need of a home this Christmas, because apart from our two hard-working administrators, everyone else in Homes for Wells is an unpaid volunteer. Donations go towards acquiring and maintaining our homes.
And we’ve been very successful – we are delighted to note that several of our early tenants, having had a few years of paying affordable rent whilst they save for a deposit, have moved on to buy their own first family homes, freeing up our homes for new tenants to start on that process. These new local home owners have been able to do this because we have provided the stepping stones for them to move into more permanent housing. I’m sure there are lots of parents who wish their own children had the opportunity, to step onto the path to home ownership in this way.
You can see our newest tenants, Sam and Kathleen and family, who have moved into our most recently acquired property pictured below and we are delighted to welcome them. With your help, we are also buying three new flats in Wells, but we really need funds to renovate them to the standard we require. You can donate by cheque or standing order, just ring the number below, send us an email, or pop your donation in the post. It would be greatly appreciated.
Our efforts and those of similar associations have a real impact, we learn from the National Housing Federation (NHF) that the government has promised a new government Social Housing Green Paper. We all look forward to the country having a proper conversation about the importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis, which seems to expand with every year that passes..
We also read in the national press, of the awful homelessness problems faced by people moved onto Universal Credit, including many working people on low incomes. We are also reminded by David Orr of the National Housing Federation (NHF), that amongst the many reasons why housing associations are essential, is that discrimination against tenants who receive housing benefit is now much more common in the private rental sector. This is a shame and shows that social housing associations, many of which, are Community lead not for profit organisations are vital in improving the housing situation. Homes for Wells main priority is to provide affordable homes for key workers with local family connections.
With Christmas fast approaching we should like to wish every one of our Wells’ residents, and our own tenants and donors a very Happy and Healthy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year. Despite all of the political uncertainties, here in Wells we have a wonderful community spirit, a beautiful environment, and a wealth of talented residents, some of whom have joined our board, and are already sharing their expertise with us. So let us enjoy Christmas, focus on our homes, our beloved families and friends, and on making life better for those in our community who are struggling in one way or another. For those who have decided to contribute – our heartfelt thanks!
This month we extend a welcome to our 5 new board members. Also, our new administrator, Lotte, who joined us in August. I give some background for each:
Eleanor Crisp, studied languages at University and lived in Russia for three years, returning to London where she worked in Investment Banking for over sixteen years in operations, project and product management, relationship management and trading. On changing careers, she retrained as a chef, became a skilled cheesemonger and baker, but also acted as a regular food judge and writer. Having moved Wells in recent years, she first became involved in the community by becoming Treasurer of the Wells Coastal Communities Team, whose goals closely align with those of Homes for Wells. She will be part of our finance committee and also look into funding and grant opportunities.
Chrissie Farley retired as principal of an inner-city college of further and continuing education in 2007 and has a wealth of experience of senior leadership. Since she retired to North Norfolk, Chrissie has continued to work in the public, voluntary and community sectors, offering professional development, coaching and mentoring. After moving to Wells she was keen to continue to use her expertise to help HFW with governance and fundraising. She believes that it is really important to develop homes for local people and increase affordable housing stock to meet the needs of a changing population.
Michael Martin had an early career as an officer in Royal Navy submarines, and subsequently trained with Procter & Gamble in sales and marketing. Michael progressed through various management roles to become managing director of a housing construction company, and later moved on to develop the market for light steel frame houses. He was involved in the first major residential development in the UK for housing associations, using modular, sustainable housing systems. He developed a £60,000 house through English Partnerships and for the Blair government. He then moved into managing large multi million pound projects for many housing associations.
Jane Berwick is a local person and a professional estate administrator with extensive experience managing many aspects, including agricultural and residential properties, working with tenants, recruitment of employees and HR responsibilities. She also is used to setting up and developing IT and telephony systems, and providing personal assistance, and support to senior staff. She is currently Land and Property Manager at Holkham Estate.
Pippa Cooke grew up in and around Wells and bought her first home here in 2016 under a local housing scheme. Whilst studying for her Mathematics degree at the University of Portsmouth, Pippa returned home in the holidays to work at Pinewoods Holiday Park. Following University, Pippa joined IBM under their graduate scheme and now with 5 years experience she is currently an Associate Project Manager for the company. Alongside her employment she is also studying for a Masters degree in Management at Durham University. Pippa has acquired many business, communication, technical and project management skills and will be supporting Homes for Wells with IT.
We look forward to getting to know our new board members better, and to working with them for the benefit of Homes for Wells.
I have already mentioned our new administrator, Lotte Wynder, who has joined our very capable financial administrator Kady Riches in the Homes for Wells office. Lotte has fulfilled many senior administrator roles, with National Australian bank, in schools and theatre. She continues as stage manager and front of house manager with the Tower Theatre Company. Lotte also managed a shop and post office before moving to Norfolk, and now lives in Binham with her family.
Kady has expanded her role to cover further significant financial areas. She also, with Lotte, shares the important responsibility for looking after our tenants. Just a reminder that our office is open from nine till three each Tuesday and Thursday.
In other news, we learn from the National Housing Federation (NHF) that the government is changing oversight of housing associations by introducing a new Regulator. We also await a new government Social Housing Green Paper. We are reminded by David Orr, chief executive of the NHF, that amongst the many reasons why housing associations are essential, is that discrimination against tenants who receive housing benefit is now common in the private rental sector. Invariably, social housing associations, members of the NHF, are not for profit organisations, providing benefit for their local communities. We all look forward to the country having a proper conversation about the role and importance of social housing in ending the housing crisis. With our new team members above, we are confident that we will face future opportunities and changes with renewed confidence, and continue to develop and expand our housing stock.