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FINAL WORD KING/QUEEN FOR A DAY

Queen for a Day:
Lynn Wassell

December 2012

The chief executive of Partick Housing Association (PHA) outlines her housing agenda for her reign as ‘Queen of Scots’.

Lynn Wassell
Chief Executive
Partrick Housing Association

Well there’s a King’s Lynn, so in an age of equality there must be room for a Queen Lynn, for one day at least!

Lynn ‘Queen of Scots’ might be most appropriate given our location.

‘Removing power from those that don’t care’

Not the X Factor, but it creates just as many tears. Around 225,000 house owners in Scotland use property managers to carry out their repair and maintenance responsibilities on communal areas, roofs and stairwells. Partick Housing Association provides a factoring service for well over 2,000 homes and many more people are asking for our services. Every time we wish to make a substantial investment in a factored shared block, we have a search to try and get majority consensus from absent owners.

It’s a Scottish issue, but a global problem as we hunt the world tracking down those that have purchased a flat and then long since moved on. For our tenants it’s a headache they don’t need, and it results in additional spend for us. It is a resource issue in the time we spend tracking down and trying to reach consensus, but also an asset management problem whereby if we cannot deliver major improvements to tenement blocks it is a risk of disrepair.

The Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011 which came into force in October is very much welcomed, but the Queen in me would like to remove a little power from those that simply don’t care about the neighbours they left behind. If your house is no longer your home, then an equal say in how it’s maintained seems a big privilege.

‘Tempting to close waiting list’

The Right to Buy (RTB) consultation in Scotland needs to be a journey and not just an end result. Whether the decision is taken to move tenants with preserved right to buy onto modernised terms, or to end all RTB, my plea as queen would be to ensure the views put forward are not lost.

More than 270 organisations, from charities to housing providers to politicians and local authorities, have had their say. The views will provide a clear picture of housing need in Scotland in 2012 and have benefits beyond this consultation.

Partick currently has around 1,700 social rented properties. We have a housing list of nearly 5,000 applicants and (on average) we let only 100 properties per year. The demand situation gets worse when you consider that we received 1,215 new applications last year. If PHA closed its housing list today it would take over 200-years to clear its existing list of applicants.

It would be an abuse of my crown to make a decision based on what’s best for our customers only, but sorely tempting!

‘Speed dating service for housing providers’

If I could be a fairy queen for the day with supernatural powers, I would choose to magic away the time it takes to achieve economies of scale! Sharing services and working with other housing providers and agencies has a lot of benefits, but finding the perfect partner, as in life, takes time and effort. A royal speed dating service for housing providers could be an interesting start….

‘Invite housing minister to join my court’

We now have a Minister for Housing & Welfare, Margaret Burgess (pictured), who I’ll be inviting to join my court. She has already attended a recent Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ parliamentary reception, which sent the right messages to the sector. With others already planned, this is the start of what I hope is a chance for her to see first-hand the many achievements of the sector, but also to understand the many challenges we face.

‘More time in charge’

A day is not enough! So my final policy would be for a vote to give me a little more time in charge.