Optivo and Southern Housing Group have today officially merged to form Southern Housing. Legal completion was achieved this morning following formal registration with the Financial Conduct Authority.
Plans to merge the two not-for-profit housing associations were first announced in March 2022. Over the following months both organisations engaged extensively with residents, colleagues and external partners. This included an intensive six-week formal resident consultation over June and July. Over two-thousand residents responded, with a clear majority expressing support for the merger. Having considered resident feedback alongside financial due diligence, both boards agreed to proceed with the merger, which is now legally complete having achieved the relevant consents.
Southern Housing will own around 77,000 homes and serve 167,000 residents across London, the South East, the Midlands and the Isle of Wight.
Sir Peter Dixon – until now chair of Optivo’s board – becomes the Chair for the new organisation, while Janet Collier – now former chair of Southern Housing Group’s audit and risk committee – becomes the Vice-Chair. Paul Hackett CBE takes on the role of Chief Executive.
Paul Hackett CBE, Southern Housing Chief Executive, said: “Our aim is for this merger to be different to those that have gone before. Yes, we’ll be a larger organisation with 77,000 homes. But – by virtue of our similar geographies – we’ll also become more local. Consolidating our stock, colleagues and services means we’ll deepen ties in our key communities. Our denser footprint also means we’ll be a bigger, more strategic presence in more local authorities. We’ll use that status to increase our social impact, whether that be developing new homes for those in housing need or investing in the health, wealth and wellbeing of our residents.
“Residents will be at the heart of the new association. Having worked alongside residents at Southern Housing Group and Optivo, I fully appreciate the wealth of valuable insight and experience they can bring. We’ve already worked with residents to co-create our Southern Housing customer service promise and they’ll be crucial in shaping the new organisation.
“One of the motivations behind the merger was to become more financially resilient in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The recent economic downturn has only strengthened my resolve to bring the two organisations together. With improved financial resilience, we’ll be better equipped to improve customer services, invest in our existing homes and continue to supply much-needed new affordable housing.”
Sir Peter Dixon, Chair of Southern Housing’s board, said: “I’m delighted legal completion has now been secured. Colleagues at Optivo and Southern Housing Group have worked incredibly hard to achieve this milestone within eight months of the plans first being announced. That close collaboration bodes well for the future.
“Our residents are at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis. We’ll use our improved financial resilience to enhance services at a time when many will be seeking to make cutbacks. That starts with getting the basics right, most of all repairs, but it will also mean increasing investment in digital services to modernise and streamline how we interact with residents. I’m looking forward to working alongside residents and colleagues to make this merger a resounding success”.