"Merging two large organisations at a time when the operating conditions we face are among the toughest I can remember has been one of the biggest professional challenges that I’ve undoubtably faced in over 30 years in housing.
Yet as I reflect on the first anniversary passing of when Optivo and Southern Housing Group merged – I find myself still extremely excited about what the future will offer under Southern Housing.
The major driving force for coming together was the opportunity to create a resilient organisation that enhanced the service offer for residents by leveraging our scale and density. To that end, we’ve been working tirelessly to integrate systems, workforce and improve processes over the past 12 months.
We co-created an extensive new resident governance structure to involve residents in scrutiny, decision-making and the shaping of services. To ensure residents’ voices are embedded into the heart of our new organisation we’ve appointed an unprecedented four residents to our Board. Co-creation projects prioritising service improvements and complaints handling are already under-way with residents and our first pieces of co-created work such as the Building Safety strategy are out for consultation.
We’ve invested more in existing homes to ensure they are safe, energy efficient and up to the Decent Homes Standard, and will have built over 1000 new homes this year – several of which have won awards for design and affordability.
Our people change programme is 83% complete and has been driven by the premise of retaining skills while we also add resources to front line teams such as Repairs which is of such importance to resident satisfaction.
Importantly 95% of our colleagues have been through our Southern Service training programme which underpins our commitment to delivering amazing customer service.
I’m enormously proud that we’ve also placed a comprehensive commitment to diversity and inclusion at the heart of Southern Housing. We believe that a diverse workforce will enables us to better serve our residents and communities. We will continue to drive this at every level of Southern Housing.
We’ve also made significant strides in integrating legacy systems while investing in a new data roadmap and the technology that will make our decision making quicker, resident access easier, and ultimately the services we offer more effective in the future.
In the wider world we’ve also not been shy in talking to government about the importance of long-term financial certainty for our sector so we can continue to deliver new homes and great service to residents.
There are many other elements to share that I am equally proud of, so I am going to ask my colleagues over the next few weeks to share their year one stories with you too.
Southern Housing was built on a shared commitment between two organisations to building homes and communities that people feel proud to live in.
We’ve begun our journey towards that goal in very turbulent times, but I could not be more grateful to the colleagues, residents, contractor partners and others who have helped us achieve so much during our first 12 months."