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Pentland seeking views on proposed transfer to Cairn ahead of ballot

2nd August 2021

Pentland Housing Association tenants are to be formally consulted on a proposed transfer to Cairn Housing Association, which will bring new investment to homes and a locked-in affordable rent guarantee, from a new combined Cairn and Pentland team in Caithness.

Detailed information leaflets are being posted out and members of staff from Pentland and Cairn are aiming to personally visit every household to try and speak to residents and answer any questions they might have. This consultation period could lead to a ballot of all Pentland tenants in the next few months asking them to approve the transfer.

The key benefits of the proposed partnership are:
Cairn will FREEZE rents in the first year of the transfer and provide an affordable rent guarantee for the following four years, with lower rent increases than proposed by a stand-alone Pentland.

Cairn will invest £6,300,000 in local homes and communities over the next five years, with hundreds of new kitchens and other home improvements guaranteed.

Local services from a new combined Cairn and Pentland team, with new options for getting in touch online. Existing Pentland staff will be protected and will transfer to Cairn.

Cairn will provide financial security and opportunities for new services to Pentland's tenants by being part of the larger Cairn Housing Group.

Pentland want to deliver the best homes and services they can to their tenants and communities. They have been looking at how they can do this, both now and in the future.

A ‘transfer of engagements' is the legal term for an agreement between two organisations, in this case Pentland and Cairn, which sees the homes, assets and staff of one organisation transferred to another organisation following tenant approval at a secret ballot.

Pentland and Cairn plan to make faster progress on modernising and upgrading homes, to make them warm, comfortable and as energy efficient as possible. They also want to carry out more environmental improvements and expand on the quality of services they offer to tenants and other customers.

Pentland's voluntary Board of Management carried out a detailed strategic review of their options, which involved listening to tenants, staff and Board members. The review concluded that to meet their goals for investment, affordability and quality services that they should seek to partner with another housing association. Cairn was identified as a preferred partner in 2019 following an openly advertised procurement exercise and since then, other than a pause during the 2020 lockdown, staff and Board members from both organisations have been developing these proposals.

Transferring Pentland’s homes and services to Cairn would allow for more investment in their homes and communities, improve how they deliver services and get better value for money by taking advantage of the size, strength and expertise of Cairn.

This means, if tenants vote for the transfer to go ahead, Pentland Housing Association would no longer exist, Cairn Housing Association would grow by almost 500 homes, and Pentland tenants would become tenants of Cairn. Tenants’ landlord would change, but their tenancy agreement, rights and responsibilities would remain exactly the same.

The partnership will also see Cairn invest £6.3m in Pentland’s homes and neighbourhoods, which is almost £2m more than can be offered by a standalone Pentland, offering guarantees of hundreds of new kitchens and other home improvements.

Pentland anticipate that to meet their costs as a stand-alone housing association they will propose significantly higher annual rent increases than can be guaranteed by Cairn, who will also freeze rents in the first year of the partnership. This means, that for a Pentland tenant who currently pays £400 a month in rent they will benefit from an immediate monthly saving of £14, and a total cumulative saving over five years of £1,661.

Jim Hair, Chair of Pentland Housing Association, said:"Pentland and Cairn have distinct histories and strengths, and both feel that this proposal offers a great opportunity for tenants. Cairn is an ambitious forward-looking organisation that has a track record of investing in homes and modernising services. Cairn has a considerable number of homes in Caithness and the wider Highland region and they share our vision of excellent services to our communities. I would strongly urge our tenants to vote YES to the transfer."

Corrine Mackay, Pentland Housing Association’s Acting Chief Executive, said:"Cairn Housing Association are guaranteeing investment in our tenants’ homes, better value for money and the continuation of quality local services to our tenants and the wider community. The transfer proposals are an exciting opportunity for Pentland Housing Association and we have enjoyed working with Cairn who are very positive about creating a sustainable and modern new housing service in the county of Caithness and North Sutherland."

Don Jamieson, Chair of Cairn Housing Association, said:
"We are excited to have the opportunity to expand our services in Caithness and our team are dedicated to providing great homes and services to all tenants and residents. Cairn and Pentland share similar values and a commitment to offering the highest possible quality of services. We are looking forward to getting to know Pentland’s tenants, to provide great homes, great services, with great people."

Jason MacGilp, Cairn Housing Association’s Chief Executive, said:
“Over the last few months it has been great to listen to tenants about their priorities for the future. I have personally met, via Zoom, the Pentland Tenants’ Panel a number of times already. We are really excited about the prospect of bringing our two fantastic organisations together, with guarantees for more and quicker investment in homes, a new combined team working from a local office and a locked-in affordable rent guarantee.”

The rent savings are based on Pentland plans to link inflationary rent increases to Consumer Price Index (modelled at 1.9%) plus 1.5% for the next five years. If tenants vote for the partnership, they will benefit from an initial rent freeze in year one after the transfer, followed by annual increases capped at Consumer Price Index only.

The election process will be managed by Civica Election Services.

 

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