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Featuring Gateway Housing Association: Interview with Makanjuola Akinyemi, Director of Property Services

Gateway Housing Association – Champion of the Community

(The Following is a Promoted Article)

“As a landlord, the biggest challenge you face is delivering a high quality, responsive repair service – particularly in the social housing sector,” insists Makanjuola Akinyemi, Director of Property Services at Gateway Housing Association, one of London’s oldest independent housing associations. “Here, we’ve proved that – with the right volume of work, in a conducive geographical environment – it is not only viable but advantageous to bring repairs and maintenance in-house.”

Turning 90 years old this year, Gateway Housing Association has long-remained a champion of the community, providing vital social housing and sheltered accommodation to those most in need. Operating in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney, the organisation currently manages under 3,000 properties and stands as the largest provider of older people sheltered housing in Tower Hamlets.

Despite continuing to serve the whole East London community with a range of properties and a range of tenures, in recent times, Gateway Housing Association has renewed its emphasis on elderly care. The organisation has launched a number of new residential development schemes dedicated solely to the older generation across the London borough. And whilst elderly-only residences are undeniably commonplace up and down the UK, Gateway Housing Association has taken a radically different approach to the types of property available, establishing a number of shared ownership schemes to accommodate older residents.

Akinyemi provides an insight into the initiative: “Many older people live in very large properties and, as their needs change, they’re looking to downsize. They want something that can both cater for their current needs and support them into the future. This is where the concept of older people shared ownership comes into its own: residents enjoy the independence that comes with home ownership while we, as a landlord, can provide support as and when they need it and provide opportunity for owners to access safely repair and maintenance work that they might otherwise find challenging in a wholly-owned property.”

Gateway Housing Association

William Cubitt Lodge is the first of its kind within Tower Hamlets to offer shared ownership homes for older people. The Isle of Dogs residence comprises 21 one-bedroom flats, including four flats adaptable for wheelchair users, as well as eight two-bedroom older persons shared ownership (over 55s) flats. Gateway Housing Association will open a second scheme, William Guy Gardens in Bromley-by-Bow, later this year and the organisation is committed to developing its specialism in residential care for the years to come.

Whilst the most visible changes in focus for the organisation are undoubtedly these two, new developments, significant work continues to go on behind the scenes. Wielding a new initiative dubbed Vision 2020, Gateway Housing Association has recently undergone major internal transformation in a bid to improve the day-to-day lives of 5,000 locals. By far, the biggest change came last August with the founding of its own, in-house responsive repair business, Gateway Homeworks.

“One of the core strategies of our Vision 2020 drive is to deliver a consistently great service where one call solves it all, and one click does the trick,” details Akinyemi. “Part of that involves keeping pace with technology and providing various, quick-and-easy ways to access the service. More than that though, the service, itself, has to be responsive and of high quality. By bringing responsive repair works in-house with Gateway Homeworks, we’re able to ensure work is to the standard we expect, and residents deserve.”

Gateway Housing Association

Eight months down the line with the business now well-established, Gateway Housing Association has received zero complaints about the level of service provided which, for an organisation of its size, speaks volumes. Of course, whilst the strategy of investment was always geared toward residents and improving the service they receive, the creation of Gateway Homeworks has also allowed the organisation to significantly reduce its repair expenditure. The average cost of repairs is now around £85 whereas previously this was around £120 per job. What amounts to nearly 30% saving provides more capital that can spent on further improvements to the service including plans to build 500 new homes by 2020.

As part of Vision 2020 and the organisation’s ethos more generally, Gateway Housing Association continues to work hard to support the local community – not just with the provision of contemporary and high-quality housing but also within the procurement process. Procuring services and materials through the Central Housing Investment Consortium (CHIC), the organisation benefits from the purchasing power of 300,000 units despite only owning 10% of that figure. And whilst membership primarily affords the organisation a strong buying position with national firms, it has also granted it greater knowledge of what’s available closer to home. Indeed, Gateway Housing Association regularly calls upon a number of small, local building merchants for specialist services and products.

Despite being a somewhat sizeable business then, the organisation has nevertheless retained an incredibly local feel and has yet to lose sight of its aims: chiefly, to continue to serve the region of East London in an attentive and high-quality manner. Between concentrated internal investment and the development evident across its three operating boroughs, the organisation demonstrates a keen awareness of modern day residents’ needs and continues to meet those requirements – and more – with some flourish.

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BDC 299 December 2022