It has been a privilege to work with our customers, members of the local community, colleagues and our Board members to create this ambitious plan for the next five years. I feel excited about our Group’s potential to play an important role in the ongoing regeneration of Leith and north Edinburgh by providing excellent affordable homes and life-changing services in brilliant communities.
Group Chief Executive
The Port of Leith Housing Association (PoLHA) Group includes: the registered social landlord and charity, Port of Leith Housing Association (the parent organisation), and three wholly-owned subsidiary companies: a private rented sector letting agent, Persevere Developments Ltd (PDL), a community initiatives/social enterprise company, Quay Community Improvements CIC (Quay CI), and a multi-trades repairs and maintenance company, TB Mackay Energy Services (TBM).
PoLHA is the largest social landlord in Leith, owning and managing almost 3,000 homes.
Approximately 90% are for social rent through the Association.
10% are for mid market rent through Persevere Developments.
There are significant opportunities over the years up to 2025 for the Group to play an important part in the ongoing regeneration and development of Leith and in the wider Edinburgh Waterfront, within Western Harbour and Granton in particular. The Group is extremely well placed to continue playing a very active part creating new and large scale mixed-use and mixed-tenure communities and, where new services will be developed, providing ongoing maintenance and support linking together both existing and new communities in future.
There are also opportunities through collaboration and partnership working with other RSLs operating in the city and including through the newly formed ARCHIE alliance of smaller independent organisations to be working more closely together, and benefitting through sharing knowledge and information, undertaking joint procurement activity to secure improved value for specific goods and services, and improving the range of service offering to tenants and other stakeholders in future.
It is also a period of significant change and challenge, most notably from the continued roll out of Universal Credit, from the uncertainty and the impact of Brexit, and from the inevitable disruption to residents and businesses due to the planned extension of the tram line to Newhaven being constructed over the next three years.
Discussion sessions were held with staff, Board Members, tenants and local community groups during 2019 to identify priorities and what they considered the focus of the strategy should be over the next five years. People working and living in Leith and north Edinburgh were invited to complete an online or face to face questionnaire about what concerns and priorities they have for the future.
During 2019 the results from the stakeholder consultations and the 2018 tenant census were analysed alongside performance and other contextual information by the Board, Management and Staff in order to identify and articulate the Vision and Mission for the Group and the strategic themes, elements, operating principles, goals and results to be achieved by March 2025.
Appendix 1 contains a list of the contextual documents referred to when forming the plan. A further stakeholder consultation was carried out in late 2019 to ensure buy in and engagement from staff, Board Members and community members in order to check that the plan will deliver what our stakeholders want. The overall strategy outlined in this document is supported by a range of specific strategy and action plan documents see Appendix 2.
Port of Leith Housing Association was founded as a registered social landlord in 1975 in response to a growing need for better management arrangements for a deteriorating stock of older tenement properties and for investment in building, and managing, new affordable housing for the growing population. Initially, its existence focused largely on landlord responsibilities, building and providing good quality social rented properties plus a small number of shared ownership properties.
The Association, which is also a registered charity, has grown continuously and developed its strategic thinking to a position where it now recognises its role and position as a leader and influencer in developing high quality “places” in which to live, including improving the available choices and access to affordable housing and support for independent living. This has led to the creation of the subsidiary companies, Persevere Developments Ltd in 2010, and Quay Community Improvements in 2016, and the acquisition of an existing company, TB Mackay Energy Services, in 2019, reinforcing the increased scope of the PoLHA Group operations more widely within the community of Leith and north Edinburgh.
The Association has historically seen its operations as being based largely in the area of the former Burgh of Leith and wider north Edinburgh. It now operates in an arc from the east edge of the Cramond district of Edinburgh through the top of Leith Walk and back to Portobello in the north east of the City.
Edinburgh has an acute need and high demand for affordable housing. In a very pressured housing market, access to affordable housing continues to be very challenging for households with incomes at or below average levels. Operating in Leith and north Edinburgh, PoLHA regularly receives a much higher than average number of bids through EdIndex for each available social let, in 2019 averaging 320 per property compared to a city wide average of 230. Demand for mid market rented housing also continues to be very high.
The Scottish Government has a target for at least 50,000 more affordable homes to be delivered by 2021. The City of Edinburgh Council has a target of 20,000 new affordable homes to be built over 10 years by 2026 which will require a sustained effort and focus of public subsidy (Housing Association Grant) and private investment in order to continue providing both new social and mid market rented homes required over this period. As part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, a renewed focus has been placed on completing the regeneration of the Edinburgh Waterfront which, in Granton and Western Harbour in particular, presents a major opportunity for creating larger scale new mixed use and mixed tenure neighbourhoods, including a very significant numbers of new homes.
The Association is committed to working towards delivering excellent services. Through continuous review and focus on improvements to performance, the Association strives to improve both value for money and levels of customer satisfaction. Through the Customer Connect Group, and other feedback mechanisms, the Association will continue to improve its understanding of what our customers’ priorities are and the actions necessary to further improve performance. Independent verification of the quality of our services will be provided through various mechanisms, including through Quality Scotland/EFQM, Investors in People, Tenant Participation Advisory Service and Investors in Diversity accreditation.
In 2010, Persevere Developments Ltd was established as a wholly owned subsidiary, to enable the Association to increase the range of affordable housing options available. It has achieved this through extending operations into the private rental sector and providing (mid market) rental opportunities to individuals and families in work on lower income levels who are not eligible for social rented properties or who find open market housing costs for renting (or owning) unaffordable.
The operating model for PDL is that it currently leases properties for mid market rent from the Association. The Association provides management services to PDL for the properties.
Within the private rented sector in the City, demand continues to outstrip supply resulting in open market rented housing costs being very high, and currently at levels averaging at over 55% of the total household income. This leaves a growing section of the population struggling to access and afford either private rental housing or owner occupation. It can therefore be confidently predicted that there will continue to be a significant demand for the mid market rent homes provided by PDL for the foreseeable future.
Company Registration Number SC388989
In 2016, Quay was incorporated as the Association’s second wholly-owned subsidiary, in order to continue to support its “wider role” work to improve both the local environmental and social fabric of the area at a time when financial resources from both national and local government to support these have been diminishing.
Quay has been established as a social enterprise to deliver commercial services for profit which, in turn, will be reinvested back into the community. Its initial focus was to develop the commercial elements of its remit and it started by providing stair cleaning services. With the ongoing regeneration underway in the Edinburgh Waterfront, where substantial new mixed-use neighbourhoods are being created, there are significant new opportunities for Quay to provide services in support of the Group’s “place making” ambitions. Having also supported the creation of ARCHIE (the alliance of registered co-operative and housing associations, independent in Edinburgh) in 2018 bringing eight housing organisations into a framework for more collaborative joint working, there is potential for Quay to extend its social enterprise activity supporting communities throughout north Edinburgh and more widely.
Company Registration Number SC538129
A very significant part of the service offer to tenants is about the physical quality of the home, that it is in a good state of repair and provides a safe and secure place to live. Following a competitive tendering process undertaken four years ago, the Association entered into a new partnership with TBM as service provider for both responsive repairs and gas servicing, which has resulted in closer collaboration to improve both the service offer and the quality and cost of what is provided.
A key strategic risk for the Association is that the benefits of this collaboration could potentially be lost through either TBM not securing the contract again and/or it being taken over by another commercial business which could result in a poorer service offer and quality/cost to the Association and its customers.
Through joint agreement the Association has in 2019 acquired the whole business as a going concern, including all assets and existing contracts with a range of other public, private and RSL clients to deliver a multi trades repairing and improvement service. This strategic acquisition provides comfort mitigating a key risk to the Association more effectively in future and provides the opportunity to further improve systems and processes for both repairs and maintenance functions for the Group, offering greater value for money and improved customer satisfaction levels in future.
Company Registration Number SC202640