Leeds Jewish Housing Association’s Annual General meeting was held on Monday 12th September.
Over 80 tenants and residents attended. Kate Pearlman-Shaw, LjHA’s Chair welcomed tenants, residents, Board members, Shareholders, and also members of the wider community. “Having been through a few years of re-organisation and internal development, we want to show you who we are, what we are doing and how we are embracing the future.” said Kate.
The formal proceedings commenced with the approval of previous minutes and appointment of the auditors. Daniel Myers, LjHA Treasurer, reported that Saffrey Champness, the Auditors, completed their work on the 2016 accounts and have given us a clean bill of health.
The accounts have therefore been approved by the Board and Saffrey Champness were re-appointed by the Board.
Financially, the Association had a strong trading performance in the year” said Daniel, “with reduced voids and continuing tight control over operating expenses, and revenue increased by 3% overall. The Association balance sheet remains strong, and the management of rent arrears has further improved during the year.” Kate, the Chair of the Board of Management, spoke about how LjHA had prioritised development needs, investing in homes and and continued to meet the housing needs of our community. This has been a challenge for LjHA, due to the government announcing a 1% decrease in rents, which has seen LjHA’s income reduced but despite this LjHA has maintained its stock investment programme by carrying out the following:
Replacing components that are 20 years older or more; including fitting 50 new kitchens, 52 new bathrooms, 15 new boilers and replacing 53 mains boards. Kate announced “This year we agreed to change the nature of Stone Court from supported housing to general needs, increasing our ability to house more general needs applicants, including adults and families. During a turbulent year for Housing Associations in general, Lee and Board Members have attended as many national meetings as possible, to understand the changes to the political and regulatory housing landscape.
The advice from such meetings, is be proactive, develop, find a way to be creative, remain financially strong and make a difference. LjHA has embraced the guidance and is doing exactly that. We have created a National Powerhouse of Jewish Housing Associations, being keen to develop in partnership with them; exploring the ways we can all work closer together, serving our local communities in partnership. The more connected we are, the stronger we are.”
Lee Bloomfield Chief Executive, presented his speech, highlighting the uncertain times in the social housing sector.
“July 2016 was very unexpected following the UK’s decision to leave the Europe Union and the resignation of the Prime Minister and the election of his successor” said Lee.
“The current government were elected in May 2015 and their mandate in respect of social housing was clear. They wanted a move away from social rented housing to home ownership as the preferred form of tenure and said they wanted 240,000 new Starter Homes for home ownership during the lifetime of this parliament. HCA grants for social housing have been
reducing year on year since 2010 with Housing Associations becoming more reliant on self-funding for any new social housing schemes they want to develop. There was a shock announcement in the October 2015 budget that from April 2016, Housing Associations had to reduce their rents by 1% each year until 2020. The main thrust of this was to help the government reduce the housing benefit bill. Good news for tenants but not so good for landlords!
LjHA has responded positively to these challenges and we have developed a Value for Money Strategy which means that we are committed to closely scrutinising every area of significant spend and looking to ensure we have social value for all our spend. This means that when we embark on any major spend we look at what value it will add to the organisation and what difference it will make to our customers.”
Lee spoke about the decision to move offices, “You will know that we have now moved out of the MAZCC and into Stonegate Way. Whilst we were happy being part of the MAZCC family it wasn’t ideal for us for two reasons.
Firstly, cost. It didn’t make good financial or business sense to pay rent on another building when we owned a purpose built housing office in Stonegate Way and we could direct this money either into front-line services or earmark it as a cost efficiency saving. Secondly, tenants told us we weren’t accessible being on the second floor of the MAZCC and they would like us to be more customer facing.”
Lee ended by highlighting the important work carried out by the Service Improvement Panel, who have shown such professionalism and commitment in challenging and scrutinising the work and services provided to tenants by LjHA, with their aim of continuous improvement. Their review of our General Needs Voids Service was a sterling piece of work and has helped drive forward improvement in respect of performance and void standards.
Lee thanked Jo-anne Shiffer, the chair of the panel and her team, and also all the tenants as without them there would not be a Housing Association.
Simon Bernstein of Empathy Communications, was the guest speaker of the AGM.