Derwent Living unveils 10-year plan for growth

Derby-based housing association Derwent Living has announced it is to embark on an expansive building programme – delivering 600 much-needed affordable homes over the next three years.

The housing provider, which manages more than 25,000 homes across the UK, has unveiled its most advanced business plan to date, looking at activity right up to 2025.

Derwent Living’s chief executive Peter McCormack has announced that the organisation has increased turnover during a six year period to 2013/14 from £31 million to more than £60 million and has raised customer satisfaction to over 90%.

Derwent Living has defied the downturn and despite difficult economic times, the organisation’s robust new business plan will see the company continue to grow well in to 2015 and beyond. Outlined in its ten-year plan, is the need to build 200 affordable homes for those most in need every year for the next three years.

Peter McCormack said:

“Previously, Derwent Living has created and followed business plans in three year cycles, but financial forecasting is becoming ever more uncertain. So in view of the fragile economic recovery and the probable forthcoming impact of Universal Credit, a more flexible approach seemed prudent.

“Derwent Living has created a less prescriptive, but far-reaching business plan. Above all, this plan is designed to be a ‘living’ document, to consolidate Derwent Living’s strong financial position, and allow us to respond rapidly to changing economic and political conditions.”

The ten year plan takes into account welfare reform, income collection and lettings, the use of digital technology, customer retention, tenancy sustainment and value for money.

By diversifying its operations, developing new commercial subsidiaries and using surpluses from commercial operations, Derwent Living has developed more than 1500 properties in the six-year period to 2013/4, added Peter.

“The wider impact of this development activity means that for every home delivered, around £70,000 is added to local economies, which is essential for regenerating communities by providing homes, jobs and services,” he said.
Derwent Living has also announced it intends to improve 150 homes to Derwent Living’s Homes Plus Standard by 2017.

Housing associations like Derwent Living have been relying less on government funding over recent years, said Peter. The company surpassed its own targets and built more than 300 new homes in 2014 by ploughing its own surpluses from commercial activity into the development of new affordable homes.

Peter added:

“Much of our growth over the past six years has been due to the imagination and persistence of the Derwent Living executive team and its board, and is a reflection of our commitment to finding new ways to raise finance.

“Our new plan goes one step further in doing this, as we intend to use surplus generated by our other commercial ventures to improve our existing housing stock and fund the building of much needed homes.”

Although faced with challenging times over the last few years, the positive nature of the company’s business plan is as a result of strong financial management and the company’s approach to developing its affordable housing business alongside its commercial ventures, he said.

One of Derwent Living’s most successful ventures to date has been its facilities management subsidiary Derwent FM, which has been growing steadily over the past few years. Derwent Living has also linked with financial organisations in order to buy housing stock from other housing providers.

Peter said:

“Derwent FM is a success story for Derwent Living and it has won contracts from central government, health authorities and the education sector in the last five years, with no signs of slowing down. This, combined with our other ventures puts us in a strong position.

“As an organisation our main priority is to our customers, both new and existing. We will continue to provide much needed housing when there is limited funding available, and we also recognise that we have to look at ways to improve the services we already carry out and the new plan highlights the areas we need to address. Through customer led reviews and a new performance management strategy, we pride ourselves on creating a culture where customers’ priorities are the basis of performance.”

Key themes in the Derwent Living business plan include: responding quickly and effectively to customers’ repairs and complaints, increasingly using technology to provide a fast and efficient service to customers, and improving the turnaround times for empty properties to ensure they are full.