Riverside and One Housing consulting on partnership proposals

Riverside and One Housing are consulting with their customers on their plans to come together and form a new partnership.

Update 16 November 2021: Boards agree to go-ahead with partnership following consultation process

On November 10, the Boards of Riverside Group and One Housing Group gave their approval for One Housing to join the Riverside as a subsidiary from 1 December 2021.

This follows an intensive six-week customer consultation process across both organisations in which, of those who responded, nearly half of respondents were in favour of the proposals, with only 12% against and the remainder being neutral.

A full communication to customers is now being prepared and will be sent to customers via mail or email (depending on preference) very soon.

What are we proposing to do?

Riverside and One Housing are proposing to come together to create a long-term partnership. We will do this in two steps:

Step one

One Housing Group would join The Riverside Group as a subsidiary. This means that, like now, One Housing Group would have its own Board running the association on a day to day basis. The difference is that One Housing would sit within a Group which is financially much stronger, agreeing its overall plans and direction with Riverside.

Step two

After the first two years of the partnership, we then plan to create a single housing association, with one Board and a consistent approach to delivering better local services and more cost effective support functions such as finance and IT.

Why do we think this is a good thing?

The Boards of Riverside and One Housing recognise that we can be better and stronger together.

As charitable housing associations we have very similar values, and want to do the best for our customers and the local communities we serve. We work in different parts of the country, although we both have homes in London and the South East, where there is an opportunity to work together to deliver better and stronger services such as repairs. Crucially, by coming together we think we can create an organisation that can do even more for our customers and communities

What would this mean for you?

It is only worth coming together if we can deliver real benefits for you, our customers. Put simply, we need to show that we can do more together than we can apart. We have put together a series of pledges or promises, which set out what we think we can achieve over the coming years. These are backed by a realistic financial plan.

Initially there will be limited impact to customer facing services resulting from this proposal and no change to rents, service charges or tenancy terms. As the partnership develops we will deliver better customer services, accelerated investment in our housing stock and improved tenancy sustainment services.

One aim for the new partnership will be to permanently give customers a stronger voice and more chances to engage with us – there will be a place for customers on our Group Board and our customer facing Committees, and a strengthened forum for customer engagement at Group level. Transparency and accountability are central to the partnership’s shared values.

We've agreed a consultation process and material with our Joint Customer Advisory Panel, who has independent support from TPAS.

What are our pledges?

1. We will deliver better services for customers, protecting rents and tenancy rights.

  • We will work with engaged customers to review local services and jointly develop a “Customer Offer” in the first year of the partnership – a set of common agreed standards shared between Riverside and One Housing which we will report against.
  • From day one, we will give you more choice about where you live around the country, through access to internal transfers and mutual exchanges.
  • We will not increase your rent as a direct result of creating the partnership and any future rent increases will be in line with Government guidelines.
  • There will be no impact on your rights as a tenant or leaseholder.
2. We will make sure there is a louder customer voice, with residents able to take part in our Boards and committees and better able to hold us to account.

  • From the outset, we will provide improved opportunities for you to scrutinise and influence our services. We will agree the approach with engaged customers across both organisations, creating a strong ‘Customer Voice’ for the combined Group, as well as continuing to support existing local arrangements.
  • We will ensure customers are able to influence decisions where it matters – both locally and nationally. Customers will have places on our Boards and customer facing committees, reflecting the current position.
3. We will invest nearly £1 billion in improving and repairing homes over the next 5 years, with a focus on fire and building safety, warmer homes and regeneration. We will also build more new affordable homes.

  • We will invest over £900m to repair and improve your homes over the next five years. As part of this we have set aside over £200m in our financial plan to meet the cost of fire safety improvements for One Housing’s high buildings. We will continue to seek Government funding to help offset these costs, lobbying to minimise any potential hardship for leaseholders.
  • We have also earmarked £250m to improve the energy efficiency of your homes, as part of our journey towards helping the UK achieve its national net zero carbon goals by 2050, more than doubling the investment in our separate plans. This means we will be able to start tackling this issue more quickly, supporting you to reduce the use of fuel in your home.
  • We will build around 1,300 new homes each year designed to meet the diverse needs of our communities; overall, the majority will be affordable homes for local people. This represents a 40% increase in the number we could deliver alone, helping to tackle the national housing crisis.
  • Where we have made specific commitments to customers as part of ongoing regeneration schemes, we will make sure these are delivered.
4. We will improve care and support services for older people, those with complex needs and people who are homeless.

  • We will improve our existing services, working together to ensure they meet the needs of our local partners and, where possible, can be sustained into the future.
  • We will work with partners such as local authorities to develop new services, so that we can reach more people in need of our support, with a particular emphasis on older people, those who are homeless, and people facing mental health challenges.
5. We will improve the livelihoods of customers and build stronger communities, providing better opportunities by investing in employment support and money advice.
  • We will invest an additional £2.5m each year to help build communities, by supporting initiatives which help people into work, manage their money as well as funding other local projects.
  • This investment will be prioritised by a Charitable Foundation with customers on its board.
6. We will keep our promises and make sure you can hold us to account, publishing a report each year on how we are delivering these pledges.

  • We will be transparent in the delivery of these pledges by providing an annual progress update to customers, sharing it more widely in our Annual Report to Customers.

The risks of forming a partnership

Whilst we believe that coming together can bring huge benefits to customers, it is also important to be honest, and recognise that partnerships like this are complicated and bring risks. We have thought very carefully about this, and what we can do to make sure these risks do not present us with future problems.

Risk one: The partnership becomes a distraction and stops us from delivering the commitments we have already made. How we can address the risk?

We have made it clear to our teams that their main focus must remain on improving homes, services and communities in line with existing plans. A small team is working on the partnership, but for the majority of colleagues it is very much ‘business as usual’.

Risk two: The partnership will result in too much change too quickly – we would be ‘biting off more than we can chew’. How we can address the risk?

We are deliberately planning the partnership in two stages, with One Housing joining Riverside as a subsidiary at first, where very little will change in our approach to delivering services. This will give us time to plan and engage with customers on the next step, which is full integration where we will look at the way we deliver locally and how we organise our support services, getting the full benefits of our scale and resources.

Risk three: As a larger organisation we will become too remote from our customers. How we can address the risk?

We will make sure this does not happen. At first there will be no changes to local service delivery – other than improvements we had already planned – and we will focus on giving customers a greater opportunity to influence. In time we will look at the way we deliver services, especially in those areas where both organisations own homes. Customers will be involved in deciding how local services are run in the long-term.

Risk four: A much bigger organisation with greater commitments would make us financially weaker. How we can address the risk?

In fact the opposite is true. We have put together a long term financial plan for the combined Group which shows how strong we would be. This includes the money needed to deliver the pledges set out in this booklet. We have also tested our plan to look at the impact of things that could throw us off course – such as increasing costs, or a major economic crash. This shows just how robust our plans are.

Risk five: The partnership could become uneven with a risk thatincreased development will see homes sold in the South to pay for building in the North.

The whole point of the partnership is to create an organisation that will work nationally, with a balance of homes and services across the country and offices in both London and Liverpool. The Board’s job will be to ensure that our plans and investment benefit all of our communities, with more effective customer involvement providing greater accountability for the decisions we make.

There are also risks if the proposals do not go ahead

For One Housing Group, some very difficult choices would need to be made about priorities for investment. With fire safety being the number one priority, the opportunity to start to improve energy efficiency and do more regeneration would be very limited.

For Riverside, this would be a missed opportunity to improve the services it delivers, particularly for customers in London and the South East, where our combined scale would provide the chance to deliver better, more cost effective services. Riverside would also miss the opportunity to become more efficient, generating more to invest in improving homes and services.

As one organisation, we would:

  • become one of country’s biggest housing association groups with more than 75,000 homes
  • have strong and stable financial foundations with a £600m annual turnover, £5bn in assets and capacity to do more.
  • operate nationally, but with a passion for local services.
  • become the country’s largest housing association provider of supported housing.
  • be a clear voice, able to influence government policy nationally and for London and the North.

We will consult with both One Housing and Riverside Group customers about these proposals before a final decision is made, clearly setting out the implications of the partnership. We are also speaking with all relevant bodies who need to approve this type of merger and making sure they agree it is in the best interests of our customers.

About the Joint Customer Advisory Panel

Who are the representatives?

The Panel will be chaired by two independent representatives from our customer groups:

  • Vic Andrews - The Riverside Group Vic has been a Riverside Group customer for eight years and an involved customer since 2015. He is currently the Chair of the Riverside Customer Voice Executive (RCVE) and has a background in the Public Road Transport Industry with more than 40 years’ experience representing others.
  • Matthew Waterfall - One Housing Matthew is resident from Forest Gate, Newham in East London. He has been a One Housing resident for the past four years and chairs his local tenants and residents association. Matthew works as a trade union official within the education sector.

The representatives are listed below:

Riverside: Vic Andrews (co-chair), OIwyn Lintott, Margi Kelly, Rich Nichols, Paula Simpson, Bryan Chiyama

One Housing: Matthew Waterfall (co-chair), Julian Watkins, Paul Sammut, Glen Garrett, Maryla Abraham, Andrew Rosewarne

All are customers and represent a variety of tenure types. Further details are on our websites.

How are they contactable?

The Panel are contactable via together@riverside.org,uk or together@onehousing.co.uk

All queries raised by customers via these inboxes are shared with the panel representatives.

If you wish to speak to/correspond with an individual member of the panel directly in another form, you can contact the Independent Tenant Advisor at TPAS on their freephone number: 0800 731 1619 or you can email them on: tpasadvisor@tpas.org.uk.

Who are they accountable to and are they selected or elected?

The opportunity to become part of the Panel was offered to Riverside Customer Voice members via the Riverside Customer Voice Executive soon after the partnership proposal was announced as well as the One Housing Group Engaged customers. The Panel members are accountable to the respective customer and resident voice groups and, by extension, to customers.

What happens next?

We consulted with customers on the proposals set out above. We wanted to know what you thought of them, so that we could report to the Boards of One Housing Group and Riverside, before they make a final decision about whether to form the partnership later in the year. They are carefully considering the views of customers, alongside feedback from other stakeholders such as our lenders and local authority partners.

All customers received either a letter or an email inviting them to take part, along with a copy of the proposals set out above and details on how to respond. Each letter was coded with a unique ID that is personal to you. Whichever way you chose to respond, your response went to BMG, our survey partner, and was completely confidential. BMG summarised the results for us, but have not told us the views of individual customers. We will soon be sharing a summary of the results with you.

If you have questions, accessibility or translation requirements which were not met in the letter/email you received inviting you to take part in the consultation, please call BMG on 0800 358 0337.

More information

Riverside Group and One Housing - a complementary partnership - 23 Jul 21

Frequently Asked Questions - our partnership proposal