Thirteen e-bulletin April 2019

Ian Wardle, Thirteen Chief Executive e-bulletin


Hello and welcome to the latest edition of Thirteen’s e-bulletin for partners.

I’m really looking forward to another busy year at Thirteen, but it’s been an eventful few months so I wanted to update you all on the latest goings-on.

As you may have seen in the local news, we’ve just announced plans to spend over £1billion in the area over the next five years. The investment will include building new homes, improving existing homes, improving the neighbourhoods where our customers live and investing in our range of support services.

This investment will be directed by our new strategic plan – Homes and So Much More – which will run from 2019 to 2024. There are more details about both of these major announcements below, but as always if you’d like any more information please do get in touch.

As well as plans for the future, we’re continuing with the current year’s investment programme - you can find details about our latest home building and improvements programmes below, as well as some details about Thirteen Homes’ acquisition of Gus Robinson Developments which will help with our drive to build more homes across the area.

Partnership working is an integral part of our work and we’ve recently been involved in a number of initiatives that will help us to make the most of shared effort and resources. We supported the launch of Middlesbrough’s eMpower social regeneration programme in March and are working on a really interesting project in North Ormesby to help improve the local area.

Also in Middlesbrough, we’re working with a number of partners and residents on the #DodfordRegen project to identify and tackle issues in the area. A second consultation was held in early April as a follow-up to the first successful event, so it’s great to see so many people getting involved.

There’s a lot more detail about all of this and a range of other topics below, so I hope you find this update useful.

As ever, I’d welcome your feedback on anything in this bulletin and I’d be pleased to hear any comments you might have about the update or anything else besides. Please do drop me a line at:

All the best, 

Ian Wardle
Thirteen Chief Executive

£1billion investment

We have just made a major announcement about our plans to invest over £1billion into the Tees Valley and beyond over the next five years.

This is a significant milestone in Thirteen’s development and enables us to continue building new homes, improving existing homes, making improvements to neighbourhoods and investing in the support services we offer for customers.

This investment comes at the same time as we launch our new strategic plan for 2019 to 2024 (see below).

The £1bn investment will also help to create up to 6,000 jobs from construction investment, help 2,000 people get into training or employment and support 300 apprenticeships for local people. By 2024, we aim to have around 37,000 properties, up from the current 34,000.

In the past year alone, we have invested £31m into improving our neighbourhoods, £29m into developing new homes and carried out over 150,000 repairs as part of an ongoing programme. We have just published our £34.1m investment programme for 2019-20, so for more details please have a look at the website.

The £1billion investment programme will improve our customers’ homes, local neighbourhoods and services, as well as deliver new affordable homes. It’s a very exciting time for us, our customers and for the region as a whole and we will continue to listen to our customers and stakeholders throughout the investment processes.

I’ll update you on progress in future e-bulletins, but you can keep up-to-date on Thirteen’s website which will continue to provide updates on some of the key projects within the £1billion investment plans. For more details, keep an eye on  

Homes and So Much More

As mentioned in my last e-bulletin, we’ve just launched our finalised strategic plan covering 2019 to 2024.

In our drive to provide homes, support and opportunities to grow, the plan will underpin our work to invest £1billion to improve our services, customers’ homes and neighbourhoods over the next five years.

As part of its development, key stakeholders have been involved in the production of the strategic plan, so I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who had an input into its development.

You can find a summary version and the full strategic plan. But as an overview, the plan re-states our mission to provide homes, support and opportunities to grow.

We have streamlined our priorities to include delivering: a great customer experience; quality places to live and improving neighbourhoods; and being Team Thirteen.

This last priority gives us a focus for the values that every member of Thirteen works towards, namely being considerate in our behaviour, smart in the way we do things, and progressive in moving things on.

The new strategic plan also gives an interesting overview of what we’ve achieved over the past year and provides direction for the things we’ll be doing over the next five year to enable us to continue to adapt and grow our business, delivering more investment and ensuring we remain financially resilient.

Some of the headline activities from the plan over the next year will include:

  • improving the customer experience and developing our Touchpoint customer programme
  • improving our repairs service even further
  • investment in homes, neighbourhoods and support services
  • improving our colleagues’ experience of working for us. 

Again, you can find a summary and the full strategic plan on our website.

Developing new homes

Over the last year, we’ve worked hard to deliver over 400 new-build homes in the region. Since last April we have delivered 401 new homes - a fantastic result for Thirteen and customers who need affordable new-build homes across our area.

This coming year, we are forecasting 396 homes for completion and these have all begun on-site. We have new developments starting at Roworth Road, Middlesbrough, Newholm Court, Hartlepool and Middlehaven, Middlesbrough.

Between now and 2024, Thirteen will be developing our home building programme as part of our plans to build 3,300 new homes across the Tees Valley and beyond.

Over the past few months:

In January, we started work to provide new homes at Trinity View, a development of bungalows for over-55s in Eaglescliffe. The site, just off Yarm Road, was originally home to a sheltered housing scheme, which was demolished over five years ago.

Trinity View will shortly accommodate seven energy efficient detached and semi-detached bungalows, delivered by Thirteen in partnership with Engie, who will build the properties. The development is due to be finished by the summer.

As well as homes for rent, we continue to offer new-build homes for a range of purchase options. One of the latest developments is our three and four-bedroom homes that we made available at the beginning of the year for ‘Buyin Part’ shared ownership at Wood Avens in Wingate.

In Hartlepool, four families moved into their new-build homes after we took ownership of the bungalows in the West View area of the town at the end of last year.

We bought the properties from a local builder and made them available to local people for affordable rent. All four bungalows were rented to customers very quickly and tenants are now enjoying the modern facilities they offer.

We often have stunning new-build homes available and it’s always brilliant to see customers settled and happy in their homes. This is one of the great aspects of the job and it’s always a good reminder that every single home that we develop can have a transformative effect on the lives of our customers.

Thirteen Homes and Gus Robinson

To help with our drive to build more new homes across our area, our Thirteen Homes subsidiary continues with its development.

In response to the government’s challenge to “fix a broken housing market”, we established Thirteen Homes in 2018.

With an aim to become an established house builder in the North East and North Yorkshire, Thirteen Homes believes in working with customers to find out exactly what they need to make their new home their dream home.

At the end of last year, Thirteen Homes acquired Gus Robinson Developments to bolster our house-building programme.

Gus Robinson has become one of the North East’s most well-regarded building contractors, delivering construction projects for clients such as local authorities, health trusts, private businesses and registered housing providers.

Thirteen Homes has acquired 100 percent of the business, which will continue to be based in Hartlepool, trading as Gus Robinson Developments Ltd and be operated by its existing management team in partnership with Thirteen Homes.

As well as building homes for sale, Gus Robinson will also deliver affordable housing schemes and specialist housing projects on behalf of Thirteen, while still providing contracting construction and building services to current and potential new customers.

This is an exciting opportunity for Thirteen that will enable us to increase our building activity to meet the requirements of communities in the North East and North Yorkshire. We’re convinced that as part of Thirteen, the company will flourish even further and play a more significant role in the development of the North of England’s housing requirements.

Investing in existing homes

Alongside developing new homes, our work to improve existing homes is part of Thirteen’s £411m five-year investment programme across the area.

Over the past year, we have invested £31m in improving homes, recent examples of this kind of investment has included:

In Thornaby, Thirteen worked in partnership with Wensley Roofing to replace and upgrade roofing for almost 120 homes on the Laburnum and Hawthorne estate.

The work saw the roofing replaced and chimneys re-pointed to ensure that the customers’ homes are wind and watertight, and work to the ventilation to help improve the condition of the properties.

Also in Thornaby, more than 30 residents living on the Humphries estate benefitted from new windows, cladding, insulation, canopies and external painting to the brickwork. The work has improved the external appearance of the homes and has made a real difference for the residents, who have told us how much warmer their homes are now.

In partnership with Esh Property Services, we’re also working on a £600,000 project which will see flats at Penrith Road supported housing scheme in Middlesbrough benefit from new kitchens and bathrooms. The work will also see the communal areas fully refurbished, new windows and doors fitted, new flooring, an electrical re-wire and fire system upgrade.

Penrith Road provides accommodation for young people and families at what can be a very difficult time in their lives and our teams consulted with residents to get their views on the type of improvements needed ahead of the work that began in January.

A new communal garden at the Burbank Court supported living development in Hartlepool has been officially opened, and residents celebrated with a special tea party.

The first warden to manage the development when it opened in 1987 returned to cut the ribbon to officially mark the opening of the garden and a range of other work as part of an £83,000 environmental improvement scheme.

The newly developed garden includes a hand-built pergola, trellis, seating, and new paving and planting. As well as the garden, we have also made a range of other improvements on the grounds, including increased residents’ parking, replacement of uneven surfaces and planting around the site.

The development at Burbank Court is one of many projects that Thirteen is working on at supported living schemes across the Tees Valley. This includes a major transformation of the communal garden at a Thornaby extra care scheme for the over-55s.

In Thornaby, working with the Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company, Thirteen’s grounds maintenance and caretaker teams transformed the communal garden at Meadowfield House, turning the overgrown gardens into a place the residents can enjoy and easily maintain.

Everyone worked really hard over the month-long project and the difference is incredible. It has been a real team effort and I know the residents will appreciate the updated facilities.

In the Pallister Park area of Middlesbrough, we marked a milestone in a major project by completing the 500th roof improvement on the estate.

The work started in April 2018 and has improved the appearance of the homes and will ensure they’re wind and water tight for years to come.

Hundreds of customers in Middlesbrough have benefited from this year’s investment programme, which has seen a further 100 customers in Pallister Park receive a new boiler, over 30 homes in Ayresome receive new kitchens, 150 customers in Berwick Hills receive new windows, 85 have received a new boiler, while work is underway in Thorntree to upgrade more than 350 boilers.

It’s been a fantastic team effort and we’ve received some really positive feedback from our customers.

Over the next year, we’re carrying out £34.1m of internal and external improvements on our existing homes - you can find the full plan for investment in Thirteen homes for 2019-20.

High rise update

A project to relocate residents from some of Thirteen’s high-rise buildings is continuing to progress well.

After the decision was taken last summer to relocate people living in five high-rise buildings in Stockton, Thornaby and Middlesbrough, Thirteen’s staff have been working hard to help people through the process and make sure they can settle into a new home in the area.

A team of specialists has been working with residents over the past nine months to find alternative accommodation and make sure the move to a new home goes as smoothly as possible.

Residents have been very positive about the moving process and the new homes they are moving into, and Thirteen’s dedicated relocation co-ordinators are continuing to work closely with tenants throughout the whole process.

eMpowering Middlesbrough

We’re working to support Middlesbrough Council with their eMpower social regeneration programme which is aimed at empowering people in Middlesbrough to be part of plans for the future and to live healthy, happy and secure lives.

Members of staff represented Thirteen at the launch of the programme in Middlesbrough’s town hall, and staff from our neighbourhoods teams also supported a week-long series of eMpower launch events in communities across Middlesbrough in March.

The events gave staff the chance to talk to attendees and make connections with other people and groups and reflect on how Thirteen could work together with others or further grow the work we already do.

Together with Tenants

The National Housing Federation is planning to create a new framework to define a new relationship between tenants and housing associations.

Called Together with Tenants, as an early adopter of the scheme Thirteen and our customers have the chance to get involved and shape the way that Together with Tenants works.

The scheme will include a new requirement for boards to be accountable to tenants; a new charter setting out what tenants can expect from landlords; tenant scrutiny of the charter; close links with regulation.

We’re encouraging customers and stakeholders to have a look at the proposals and send any comments to  

Community action in North Ormesby

At the end of last year, we held a major consultation event with the people of North Ormesby in Middlesbrough to get their opinions about improvements they want to see in their area.

Working with Middlesbrough Council, we invited residents to the ‘Your Choice North Ormesby’ event to generate ideas for changes that people wanted to see in the local community.

Now, a range of actions has been set out to meet some of the challenges that were raised at the event, including ideas for improving the local environment, improving security, developing community activities and making people more aware of what’s happening in North Ormesby.

Thirteen is working with the community and partners on developments including improving existing green spaces and walking routes, supporting the existing CCTV programme, more support to identify anti-social behaviour and crime, and improving street lighting.

The project team agreed to set aside a pot of money to begin developing the plans and Thirteen is also supporting the Citizens’ Advice Bureau advice service at the North Ormesby Hub, which was due to come to an end in March 2019, for an extra 12 months.

The event helped to bring additional funding into the area through various organisations and we have also made bids for funding, some of which have already been successful.

Removing fixed term tenancies

In 2011, the government introduced fixed-term tenancies for new build social housing, removing the requirement for all social landlords to offer the most secure form of tenancy – a lifetime tenancy.

However, fixed-term tenancies can cause anxiety for customers around renewing their tenancy which contradicts Thirteen’s overall approach to helping tenants access sustainable tenancies.

We are now in the process of removing fixed term tenancies for affordable social rented properties and replacing them with lifetime tenancies.

We will also be offering existing customers currently on fixed-term tenancies the option to transfer to a lifetime tenancy at the end of their fixed-term period.

Following recent consultations with tenants and stakeholders as part of our recent tenancy policy review, lifetime tenancies are the preferred default option for most social rental tenants.

Lifetime tenancies will offer greater security and make our standard tenancies more attractive to customers, helping to simplify the lettings process and develop more sustainable communities.

Thirteen would continue to offer a limited number of fixed term tenancies in the future in more specialist areas.


Also in Middlesbrough, we held a very successful event in February to encourage local people and organisations to give us their views and help improve the Dodford estate in the Hemlington area.

Together with Groundwork, JDDK architects and Middlesbrough Council, we held a consultation event with the community to understand the type of improvements that people think are needed in the neighbourhood as part of this innovative regeneration scheme. The event gathered the opinions and ideas of people who live and work on the Dodford estate about a range of issues, including what people like about the area, the problems it faces and ideas for improvement.

The event was extremely successful with over 50 responses coming in from an area of around 180 homes, which shows just how much interest there is in improving the area.

We're holding a follow-up event in April to give people the chance to find out about the outcomes from the first event and give people the chance to tell us about any solutions they think would benefit the area.

Durham apprenticeships

Thirteen’s employability service has launched a new scheme to support young people in County Durham into work.

The Durham Routeways project offers help for people aged 16 to 24 who are not in employment, education or training, to access training that can provide a route to employment. The two-week programme in either hospitality or customer services, provides a level two qualification and guaranteed interviews for live job vacancies with local employers.

One of the first businesses to offer employment opportunities is the Radisson Blu hotel in Durham City and we launched the scheme at the hotel in February.

Customer engagement conference

As part of our plan to involve customers in our activities as a landlord, we held a special customer engagement conference in February.

The event saw around 50 tenants and residents come along to the Riverside Stadium to find out about the latest goings-on at Thirteen. As part of our updated customer engagement framework, the event gave attendees the chance to find out about customer engagement projects and their outcomes and impacts, and to share best practice from across the housing sector.

I also went along to the conference to provide an update about events at Thirteen and I was really pleased to see so many people getting involved. A big thank you to all of our speakers, stall-holders and customers who helped make the conference happen.

Thirteen at the heart of our neighbourhoods

Our operating model to ensure that our business is at the heart of our neighbourhoods continues to develop.

For a long time now, Thirteen’s neighbourhood co-ordinators have been carrying out walkabouts on our estates to give residents and partners the chance to join in and identify any issues that might need to be tackled.

To complement the walkabouts, our neighbourhood co-ordinators have also arranged drop-in sessions for residents to come and talk about anything to do with their home, tenancy or neighbourhood. The drop-ins offer another opportunity for customers to talk to neighbourhood co-ordinators, so if you’d like to find more details, have a look at the website.

More awards

The Oscars might have been and gone but we’re still looking to the future with a number of shortlisting successes for a number of housing industry awards.

I’m delighted that Thirteen is a finalist in this year’s UK Housing Awards. We’ve been shortlisted in two categories: for the prestigious Landlord of the Year, and for Direct Labour Organisation of the year. The UK Housing Awards celebrate the achievements of organisations, individuals and projects that are improving the lives of people in their communities. Winners will be announced in May.

Two members of staff from our property services team are in the running to receive a national construction industry award. Project co-ordinator Keri Devine and trainee project co-ordinator Amy Trundley have been shortlisted in the rising star category of the Direct Works Forum Repairs and Maintenance Awards. Winners will be announced in June.

In the Northern Housing Awards, we have been shortlisted for three awards. Our employability service, Your Choice North Ormesby project and Keystep homelessness project have all been shortlisted.

Thirteen’s gas compliance team has been shortlisted for a national ASCP Safety & Compliance Award, which recognises successful initiatives to support tenants and reduce fuel poverty.

The service has improved significantly over the past couple of years which is allowing us to see if our tenants are being affected by the rise in fuel prices and where we can support them. By identifying fuel poverty at an early stage we can help to signpost customers to the right support.

Last year, the team won Gas Repairs & Maintenance Scheme of the Year so it’s fantastic that our work has been acknowledged again.