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Landlord in talks with B&Q over repairs service

A housing group is looking to expand its repairs and maintenance arm by working for private businesses, including major high street retailers.

Inside Housing understands south of England-based Spectrum Housing Group, which owns 18,000 properties, has had ‘exploratory’ talks with retailers B&Q and Argos about providing services, including repairs and maintenance work and facilities management.

Although many associations are considering sharing services and doing work for public sector bodies, a deal with a retailer would be a sector first.

Wayne Morris, chief executive of SHG, said it was too early to comment on the discussions, but added: ‘We definitely see large retailers potentially becoming part of the market place.’

SHG’s talks with the retailers are part of a strategy to expand its in-house contractor Spectrum Property Care to generate more profit to cross-subsidise new homes.

Mr Morris said: ‘There are all sorts of opportunities. We are looking to work with a range of organisations including other housing associations, health trusts and arm’s-length management organisations.’

SPC currently has a turnover of £23 million, with around £9 million worth of contracts with external clients. Mr Morris said he wanted to expand SPC into a £29 million turnover business by 2016, with SPC representing around 30 per cent of SHG’s total turnover.

Gavin Smart, assistant director of research and futures at the National Housing Federation, described the plans as ‘innovative stuff’. He said: ‘This is an example of the sector carrying on innovating as it always has done. Housing associations are always looking for opportunities to create value that they can use to invest in their core activity.’

Cuts to capital grant have led to housing associations looking at other sources of revenue.

Consultant Wayne Hughes told Inside Housing in September that he knows of 35 associations which are, or plan to, take their repairs services in-house as a result.

Source: Carl Brown - Inside Housing

11 November 2011
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