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How Peabody got its HCA mojo back

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How Peabody got its HCA mojo back

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Regulation

How Peabody got its HCA mojo back How Peabody got its HCA mojo back

By Stephen Howlett, chief executive, Peabody

Last month, the Homes and Communities Agency restored Peabody’s governance rating to G1, the highest possible standard. This followed a regulatory downgrade of a number of social housing providers in February, from G1 to G2, following the HCA’s sector-wide review of the publication of value for money information.

The restoration of G1 after four months confirms that we meet the requirements of the value for money standard and that our governance processes are generally good. Our financial viability rating remains at V1 – again, the highest possible level.  

How did we achieve this?  The Peabody board commissioned an independent review in March 2014, which confirmed that our governance assurance arrangements are robust, and we have undertaken a range of other measures to demonstrate our effectiveness and compliance.  

We have strengthened our governance arrangements by incorporating all compliance assurance reports into a schedule of annual meetings and planner; ensuring that the board now receives a quarterly report on regulatory compliance; and by making sure that induction for new chairs of board and committees includes a more comprehensive briefing on regulatory requirements. 

We take efficiency and value for money extremely seriously and are pleased that the HCA has approved our approach.  We believe we have a real responsibility to use our assets to develop more affordable homes and services in London than ever before. A key part of our 2014-17 business plan, is making sure that we have the financial strength and optimal business structure to achieve this.

We have a secured development pipeline of over 5,000 new homes, and have ambitious plans to regenerate existing estates, provide more services, and create more thriving Peabody communities across London. 

We’re on track to complete more than 1,100 new homes by next April, and will deliver over 1,000 new homes a year, from 2015. The majority of these will be for affordable and social rent and shared ownership, and the rest will be sold on the open market to fund more social and affordable housing and community investment.  

On top of that, we are really excited about our work in Thamesmead, south-east London.  Earlier this year Thamesmead based Gallions Housing Association joined the Group, followed by Tilfen Land and Trust Thamesmead.  This means that, for the first time in a generation, housing, community investment and over 100 acres of developable land is owned by a single, well-resourced organisation in the area.

Our financial strength, expertise and partnership approach means we are ideally placed to drive a programme of comprehensive regeneration, and we are investing an initial £225m, starting now, as a kick-start.  This is in the top 50 regeneration projects in the country and a major opportunity area for homes, jobs and growth in London.  Once Crossrail arrives at nearby Abbey Wood in 2018 the journey between central London and Thamesmead will be 20 minutes. 

It is about more than numbers though, and Peabody is renowned for architectural quality, design and placemaking.  We have appointed Allies and Morrison to help us prepare a plan to shape the growth and development of Thamesmead over the next fifteen years, and will work closely with a range of partners including the GLA, Bexley and Greenwich councils, Tilfen Land and Trust Thamesmead.

With others, we will capitalise on the significant new transport infrastructure coming to the area, and develop a persuasive prospectus to attract new investment and drive a thriving local economy.

Our immediate focus will be investing in existing homes, neighbourhoods and the public realm, making top quality design and extensive community engagement our top priority. We will be consulting extensively with residents through various events over the summer.

These are exciting times.  We are embarking on a long journey, and have significantly scaled up our programme of activity in 2014.  Quite reasonably the regulator takes a keen interest in whether developing associations are managing risk appropriately, whether they take value for money seriously, and whether they are properly governed. 

This experience has been a timely reminder that we are operating in a changed regulatory environment, and also helps us guard against complacency. We are delighted to have been given a clean bill of health, and are looking forward to fulfilling our mission of making London a city of opportunity for all.

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