Saturday 12 December marked 15 years since Northwards Housing was created to bring millions of pounds of investment to north Manchester. Here’s a look back at some of the things that have happened along the way.
Northwards was set up as an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) in 2005, in part to access the government’s ‘Decent Homes’ funding. With this, the company brought millions of pounds of upgrades to tenants’ kitchens and bathrooms in over 13,000 council homes across north Manchester.
But the other big reason for Northwards’ launch was to bring tenants closer to the heart of how their housing service is run. Since the beginning, tenants have sat on Northwards’ board and ‘area panels’ (which helped deliver major investment in neighbourhoods). They’ve also helped steer the company through things like the Tenants’ View scrutiny panel and independent tenants and residents groups.
But that was just the beginning…
Those two purposes led to Northwards’ launch; its ‘Big Bang’ moment. But the changing needs of north Manchester’s communities meant the business would rapidly expand and evolve. Northwards grew to offer local people the wide array of integral services that they do today, pioneering some innovative projects along the way.
On the bricks and mortar side, Northwards’ investment in north Manchester has gone far beyond Decent Homes work – and indeed, far beyond just homes.
There’ve been over £20million worth of ground breaking schemes to make properties more energy-efficient. In fact, in 2010, we won an Ashden Award (given to us by Sir David Attenborough!) for our retro-fitting:
And after years of installing energy-efficient technology in homes, Northwards now finds itself part of a cutting edge project to develop a low-carbon local energy network across the whole of Greater Manchester.
In the last 15 years, Northwards has helped bring over 200 more social rented and affordable homes to Manchester through new-build and conversions. One particularly life-changing transformation happened in 2018. To help the Ryan family look after their daughter Charley, who has Cerebral Palsy, Northwards converted an old housing office on Sandyhill Road into a very special family home:
2011 saw Whitebeck Court, a long-derelict high rise in Charlestown, converted into a multi-million pound, award-winning extra-care scheme. This attracted visitors from around the world and led the way for others to follow:
And 2008 saw the creation of the award-winning older people’s play area in Dam Head. These are fairly common nowadays, but Northwards’ one was one of the first in the country and attracted a huge amount of attention, including international news coverage:
Putting people first
“Putting people first” is one of the company’s core values. And this is perhaps most evident in the raft of services Northwards has developed, which go far beyond simply managing homes and tenancies.
In 2013, with the Welfare Reform Act about to make a massive impact, Northwards and Manchester City Council established ‘yes’. This community interest company has helped countless people in some of the most deprived parts of the city – and indeed, the country – to find work, training and start their own businesses:
Northwards brought in funding and helped launch and run services such as Be Well and Independent Living – working with colleagues in other agencies to improve the health of Manchester people and reduce pressure on the NHS:
Northwards was instrumental in creating the Manchester Move team - delivering essential services to housing providers across the city. In doing that, Northwards secured funding for extra services such as Housing Options for Older People, specialist support for people being discharged from hospital, support for care leavers, and helping people to downsize (freeing up family homes for people who desperately need them). Northwards also created the adapted homes team – providing fantastic support to some of the city’s most vulnerable people whilst saving large sums of public money and making sure that best use is made of housing stock.
And every day - working in partnership with other agencies across a whole range of areas, from crime to financial support - Northwards has been able to offer a vast array of help to tenants, such as:
- giving specialist support to new tenants coming out of homelessness
- helping those who hoard to sustain their tenancies
- in-depth money advice
- help to use the internet and get connected
- safeguarding vulnerable people
And of course, during the pandemic, Northwards has been there - not just to keep services going as much as possible, but to help those tenants most in need. When some staff couldn’t do their normal jobs because of the lockdown, many switched to volunteering. Some helped to keep local charities stocked and to deliver parcels of goods to tenants. Some joined Northwards’ “befriending” service – calling hundreds of tenants to check that they were OK and had everything they needed.
We may not know what the future holds for Northwards. But we know that there is still much to do – especially after 10 years of austerity and pressure on budgets. The above are just a few snapshots of some of what’s gone on since Northwards was created. But we’re proud of everything our people have done for north Manchester. And as we look towards 2021, no matter what - we will build on all this work and continue to support the people and communities we serve.