From now on, please visit homesforwells.com for our news, particularly if you are a tenant, an applicant already on our waiting list, a potential applicant, or one of our great many supporters.
If you are an applicant and hoping for the offer of a tenancy, we will contact you when there is a suitable vacancy and your application is near the top of the list.
If you are a supporter and would like to volunteer to help, we will be holding fundraising events as soon as Covid restrictions are lifted. Our ‘Auction of Promises’ should have gone ahead last March and again this March, but we will hold it as soon as we are allowed. We will publish the date on our website. If the Carnival and Christmas Tide go ahead, we will definitely participate and will be grateful for helpers on our stand.
If you would like to help us by attending our Annual General Meeting in September, you can contact us at any time and ask to become a Shareholder. This entitles you to attend our AGM and to ask questions about our strategy and elect potential new Trustees to our Board.
If you would like to apply to become a Trustee of Homes for Wells and attend Board meetings, please contact us in good time before our AGM. Some voluntary organisations continue successfully for many years with the same tight-knit group, but eventually new Trustees are needed. I believe it is good to attract new talents into our team, to help us to innovate and keep growing strongly.
If you support our aims and want to help us to influence the Neighbourhood Plan in favour of more affordable homes, please attend the public meetings which will be held as soon as the lockdown is eased enough to permit them being held. Many people have told me of their concerns as their neighbours have to move away, leaving ‘next door’ empty and dark for most of the year, but increasingly occupied by intolerably noisy and inconsiderate visitors in the summer. Yes, tourism has brought prosperity in the high season for Wells but, like the ‘oil boom’, its continued growth threatens to make other industries less viable. Please have your say as to how you hope to see Wells thrive all year round, with enough affordable housing and a wide variety of work, and not just at the minimum wage.
If you love Wells so much that you have a second home here, why not make it your only home? Wells has so many clubs and societies that all interests are catered for. They all need new members and helpers and are a vital part of what makes Wells a vibrant and thriving community, all year round.
Major new support for Homes for Wells
On 1stFebruary, North Norfolk District Council’s Cabinet voted unanimously to help Homes for Wells with a low interest loan. This will enable us to buy two more two-bed flats, in Northfield Waye, from Flagship. This is in addition to grants already awarded to us. The loans will be repaid from the rents we receive. NNDC is helping to support other Community-Led Housing Organisations and they see Homes for Wells as a pioneer for taking up some of the different kinds of offers they are making available.
We cannot thank NNDC enough for all the encouragement and practical help they have given us, particularly over the past three years.
In January, we received news that Flagship will take on the development of the Warham Project, with tenancies being offered to applicants on Homes for Wells’ list. Homes for Wells is in discussion now with Flagship as to next steps.
Completion of the project will not be before late Spring 2022. There is no possibility of new tenancies being awarded before then, so we ask anyone in Warham or Wells who would be interested, to please be patient, but keep checking our website for updates.
We are delighted that Flagship has helped us to realise the vision of this project, which will help to keep Warham a thriving neighbouring community. Thankyou also to Warham Parish Council whose unswerving support and encouragement has been invaluable throughout.
Holkham Charitable Foundation, as reported in the last “Quay”, has given their largest award yet, to Homes for Wells, to fund the refurbishments of four new homes in Northfield Waye. This is a significant new source of help and is targeted on a specific project, the benefits of which will be clearly identifiable.
This award has been followed by an invitation to benefit from the Holkham Estate’s initiative in sustainability, which is launched under the name of “Wonder”. Of particular interest are their biodiversity and low carbon initiatives and the fact that they are looking for collaborative partners. What will clearly help is any new project that reduces carbon use in our properties, while keeping tenants’ homes warm and comfortable. Besides that, our Northfield Waye homes have proper gardens and we’re keen to encourage our tenants to enjoy their gardens and play their part in increasing biodiversity.
With the news that “The Quay” has suspended publication for February and March 2021, Homes for Wells would like to express the greatest appreciation for all the support we have received, by the publication of our monthly “News from Homes for Wells”.
Quay Publishing, and particularly Sara the Editor, contribute so much to our community. They are modest, too - I recently expressed my thanks to the many people and organisations which support Homes for Wells and Sara, as is her right as Editor, cut out my thanks to her. So this is my chance to get round her editing and give praise where praise is due!
Wells would be diminished by the loss of The Quay; it is a feature of Wells life and helps to make Wells a special place. There is information on the many activities happening in Wells, which all can join in, and it is an excellent directory of all the local services. The quality of the writing, and the range of contributors, is high. Distribution is free to everyone in the town, which makes it available to all, regardless of income or access to the internet. Sara is a valiant campaigner for the good of the people of Wells, as demonstrated by her fearless editorial style!
The Quay has been an indispensable distributor of PR for Homes for Wells, at no cost to us. It is a kind of ‘soft diplomacy’ and, as such, has generated many donations in support of our services. Without the help of our donors, we could not achieve anything like as much as we are doing for our tenants and applicants.
The Quay was also a vital help in distributing Homes for Wells’ 2017 Housing Needs Survey. We carried out our mandatory five-yearly survey in strict accordance with the official guidelines, at minimal cost, just masses of volunteer hours. We look forward to seeing ‘The Quay’ again in April and wish everyone involved at Quay Publishing the best of health and success!
As I look back over 2020’s news, there have been some recurring themes – Covid, of course, and its impacts; our growth and the continuing generosity of both private individuals and grant-awarding bodies; and the Trustees who make up our Board and manage everything.
Covid has forced us to use more technology. Like so many others, we’ve become quite used to holding internal and external meetings by Zoom! It has saved the time and cost of travel to meetings, and enabled business to continue when lockdowns have prevented us from meeting in person. Some things are still going to need to be done on site in January – our annual inspections of all our properties is essential work, which is allowed – we will just have to turn up wearing masks and gloves and keep a safe distance from our tenants, even while we carry out the safety checks and draw up our schedule of repairs needed at each address.
At least we can benefit from the way our ‘social enterprise’ is able to carry on trading uninterrupted. It must be such a struggle for those who have to close and re-open and then close again. For those that can persevere, I hope they will succeed in winning a big boost to their trading from the Spring of 2021 onwards. Particularly for those who have been employing Homes for Wells tenants, we all hope for a wonderful season ahead.
Homes for Wells continues to benefit greatly from the excellent generosity of anonymous donors. This has been a great reassurance to us while some of our tenants have been struggling. For our future tenants (the applicants we have accepted on to our waiting list), our sincere thanks go to the organisations which have recently awarded us grants. North Norfolk District Council has approved further generous grants towards the acquisition of more dwellings in Northfield Waye. We have also received an excellent grant from the Holkham Charitable Foundation and a joint press release is being prepared. A further wonderful initiative has come from Wells United Charities, who will also acquire two dwellings from Flagship Housing, for Homes for Wells to manage and allocate to tenants from our list of applicants.
This increase in our ‘portfolio’ is taking longer to finalise than I hoped, but it will be well worth it. As Rod, our Treasurer put it, we will be adding ‘half an Old School’! In one sense, we have to keep progressing, because once in a while, our management contracts come to an end. One dwelling is going to be needed later in 2021 by its owner, so there will come times when the number of our available dwellings falls. We count ourselves fortunate that we were entrusted with the management of this dwelling for some years. We are well aware of the importance of generating enough growth to offset the eventual end of management contracts. There will be more opportunities, I am sure.
As we grow, ever greater workloads are being put on to our Trustees, who all give their services without any pay or benefit. Our newest, Lynne Burdon, has kindly agreed to take on the role of Head of Governance. Lynne is reviewing and drafting improvements to some of our standard contracts. This requires a clear mind and focus, for a vital task to keep Homes for Wells functioning smoothly.
Also, as we grow, we are looking at the structure of our office, partly to ensure that we have enough resources to manage new projects, partly to make certain that we cope well with the additional tenancies in 2021, and partly to give more operational continuity than Trustees can give. Trustees are, after all, required to be non-Executive Directors, who set our strategy; they ought not to be almost full-time managers (despite temptation!) except in an emergency. Besides, we have our Quality Management System now, which not only helps us to work consistently, but also requires the Trustees to review our strategic direction in a structured way.
At our 23rd November Board meeting I reported that I had been approached by a new volunteer to join us as a Trustee. She had read my article in ‘The Quay’, asking for new Board members. It shows how it pays to advertise! I sent her cv to our interviewing panel and they all agreed to recommend her to the other Trustees. So, Lynne Burdon, a resident of Wells, was co-opted unanimously.
Lynne has been a great fan of Wells for many years and wants to be of service to our community. She has unique experience, from her years in Islington, having been a Director of Chance UK, a charity providing mentoring to children; a Director of Angel Town Centre Business Development Board; a past President of Islington Chamber of Commerce; and a member of the Islington Strategic partnership. Lynne is a qualified solicitor who understands a lot about property. Moreover, she grew and ran two law firms, with 200 staff. Lynne’s experience and skills will help us to maintain a good balance on our Board and, in particular, our governance.
I’m very proud to have Lynne as part of our team. I believe she will greatly help us to achieve good, sustainable growth, and to improve the lives of others in the Wells community.
Thanks to the encouragement of the Wellbeing Group, run from the Community Hospital, our tenants are going to start to receive offers of help from our office staff. Our first initiative is to offer to help write a cv, or to contact local employers who are looking for staff, or apply to the Job Centre. Karen (our Fundraiser) is keen to help any tenant, if their employment, and hence their household income, has been affected by the impact of Covid. This is an early stage of testing the market for employment help. Our logic is that, if we can help our tenants to keep on top of their budgeted income, we can help them to head off difficulties with paying their rent. It’s a straightforward case of ‘enlightened self-interest’. Homes for Wells has a responsibility to protect its income and, after all, what better way to do it?
Our second new initiative is to ensure that all our tenants know about Norfolk County Council’s Winter Support - Norfolk.gov.uk/covidwintersupport – which runs until the end of March 2021. This includes things like food, including free school meals, essential items, energy costs and self-isolation payments. Lotte is there to help anyone lacking computer access or needing help with phone calls or simply encouragement to ask for what they are entitled to.
As a participant in the Wellbeing Group, during the next month, I would like to offer anyone who lives in Wells and adjoining parishes, who would like help with either job seeking or access to Winter Support, the opportunity to benefit from our services. For help with job seeking, please send your details and phone number by e mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, for Winter Support, please e mail your details to email@example.com . Homes for Wells offers this in the spirit of Corporate Social Responsibility – it sounds grand! – and, in fact, many companies offer help of this kind to their local communities. At this time of pandemic, with everyone playing a part in our community, we will all benefit.
Ever since becoming Chair, I’ve wanted Homes for Wells to have a Quality Management System. Since receiving a grant from the Norfolk Community Foundation to set this up, a great deal of work has been done, to ensure that we work consistently, reliably and efficiently. All our systems and procedures had to be recorded so that, if anyone leaves, they don’t take their knowledge away with them. That gives us resilience. We have prepared a Risk Register and weighed up the opportunities and threats we face, in order of priority. That helps our Trustees to evolve our strategy.
Homes for Wells is the fifth organisation where I have introduced a Quality Management System and achieved the ISO9001 certificate. To get the certificate (which is endorsed by the Department of Trade & Industry), you have to go through two stages of external audit. I am delighted to be able to say that Homes for Wells has been recommended for this certificate.
My thanks go to our consultants who helped us achieve this – ‘Clear Quality’. If any reader is thinking of introducing the ISO9001 system to their organisation, I can heartily recommend ‘Clear Quality’ to help them. They guided us through the intricacies and supported us through the audit, always with friendly encouragement and, for a small charitable business like ours, very modest fees. My thanks also to our Office Administrator, Lotte, who had to start from scratch, and has done a very good job. Lotte now has more detailed knowledge about our systems and procedures than anyone!
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our tenants, applicants, donors, friends and neighbours, our suppliers and lenders, all my fellow Trustees, past and present, and the whole community of Wells and surrounding parishes. May you all stay safe and well and find contentment in this strangest of Festive Seasons!