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Be Part of the Solution, Spotlight's Sustainability Initiatives Need Your Help



Disclaimer-This is the independent Spotlight view. It does not necessarily represent the views of Origin management.


I have been a resident of social housing for the better part of my life, twenty years with Origin. As a resident I want to see Origin flourishing. Next year will be the Centenary of the founding of St Pancras/Origin Housing.
I am curious to know what were the thoughts and values of the founders.
There is a museum of Somers Town in Phoenix Road and some of the early history of St Pancras is on display there.

What is clear is that residents had a day to day communication with St Pancras management and their voice was heard.
The community and each individual was sustained.
Sustainability of any organization, or indeed of the planet, is best served by individuals feeling they belong to a community with shared values to which they can commit. The tragedy of Grenfell arose, at least partly, because there was a chasm between management and residents. The voice of Residents was not heard.
Origin Housing is, I believe, committed to having the voice and concerns of residents at the heart of decision making. However this is an evolving field and residents and management are still in the early stages of knowing how to best communicate.

Some eighteen months ago at an all day Origin Manager Training day three of us residents were given a couple of minutes to say what we would do if we were the Chief Executive for a day. The answer that came to mind was to initiate a Sustainability Policy. Not to save the planet, but simply to give managers pause for thought as to whether the works they actioned could be done in a way that meant there was less waste and resources were used in a more cost effective way.

A few years previously all the slate roofs on the Estate where I live were to be renewed. I suggested to the then Head of Planned Works that the thirty year old single layer of rock wool ( which had become compressed and less efficient ) could be augmented with another layer to improve the thermal efficiency of the roof.
This was not done and the residents of the top two floors still have to live with constant wind draughts and the expense of trying to heat their homes with the major heat loss from the poorly insulated roof and the external walls. Roof renewal takes place every twenty five to thirty years.

Recently Origin Housing announced that a consultation process will take place with residents as part of the planning in developing a Sustainability Strategy. The Strategy is necessary as part of legislative requirements for HPs ( Housing Providers ) to demonstrate that they are conforming to the best standards of ESG ( Environment Social Governance ). In other words to sustain the Origin business a Sustainability Strategy needs to be put into place. A first step in consulting residents has taken place with the sending of a Survey Monkey questionnaire. This is intended to ascertain our priorities whether it is windows that let the wind in, cold external walls in need of insulation, or indeed a poorly insulated roof.

If you have not already signed up to receive these mailings please do as the more residents that are involved in helping to shape policies and hold Origin to account in areas that need improvement the better.
A strong resident voice of the many has a better chance of being heard.

Carol Carter, Chief Executive of Origin Housing, has written recently to the Spotlight Committee in reference to the development of a Sustainability Strategy as follows.
‘The main focus of the strategy will be on improving the thermal efficiency of our residents homes, given housing is our core business and will directly benefit residents. Developing a funded and deliverable plan to achieve this will be crucial. However we are also open to other ways we can contribute to environmental protection more broadly, where we have the capacity to do so'.

As works delivering improved thermal efficiency need to be funded by government or other financing prior to works being done, that is not retrospectively, residents will not be benefiting any time soon.
However how Origin carry out void works, Cyclical Maintenance programs, kitchen and bathroom upgrades etc can all have an effect on the environment and as residents we need to make our voice heard that these works are carried out in the most planet friendly and sustainable way possible.

Also as a ten thousand strong resident and staff community we can contribute individually by :
Considering the 4 R’s of Sustainability
Reduce : Refuse : Reuse : Recycle
That is creating less waste!
Origin providing accessible recycling facilities on every Estate is part of this.
Origin Estate Management needs to look at how biodiversity, tree cover, no mow May policies can be taken into account in protecting the environment.

When void works are done consideration needs to be given to what low cost works could done to improve thermal efficiency or the cost of energy, for instance the installation of low energy use lighting.
Unfortunately this is not a consideration at the moment.

A new repairs contract has recently be signed with Gilmartins. This also includes void works and kitchen and bathroom renewals. Having spoken to the Gilmartins rep who came to look at our bathroom and kitchen we have decided to not agree to the works being done now as there is no provision for any work that would improve thermal efficiency or address the mould problem. The void works would simply replace perfectly usable fittings with new ones.

As residents we can contribute to Origin management adopting more sustainable practice by communicating our concerns when finite resources are not being used in cost effective ways.
The Spotlight Committee is one resident voice that is able to communicate to management where there are problems of disrepair, Estate management issues, ASB, or any other issue affecting where we live.

How we as the Origin Community are able to work together to produce a strategy that not just addresses the thermal efficiency of our homes, but also has regard for the environment, and the well being of us all, is a challenge.

As individuals whether residents or staff we all have a contribution to make.
In solidarity,
p.s it needs to be said that the present executive leadership team at Origin were not in place when the roofs were renewed.