When the world changed, like many people, here at MHA we had to adapt. Our main priority was to manage and react to a brand new public health risk with the very personal risk of unmet housing needs for dozens of local families, with many people expecting to move into our properties that were nearing completion. This included both our general unoccupied homes and new developments, all the while keeping both our staff and tenants safe.
The question was a practical one; how could we change our approach to make sure everyone was safe, but also ensure those who needed to, and could, still got housed?
The calls began, from concerned incoming tenants desperate to get their keys as soon as possible, whilst others informed us they would not be able to move due to self-isolation decisions, and were anxious not to lose their offers. Management had to think fast; offers would remain valid for those who could not move, and for those who needed to get in fast we would press on with the unoccupied home works and juggle the diaries of multiple housing officers to get their tenancies ready to sign.
Working through the logistics of the sign-up process we developed a ‘no-contact’ sign-up procedure quickly. Essentially switching in and out of a property, keeping people apart and using phone support to talk incoming tenants through complicated contracts and paperwork.
We needed to reduce movement across the county and anticipate that multiple incoming tenants had either already given notice on properties, or were experiencing homelessness and desperate to move into their new home before a potential ‘lock-down’. Our local Housing Benefit team relaxed requirements for signatures on forms, our Building Services team prioritised work at the properties we needed to let fast, and other colleagues picked up tasks that could not be completed by the officers who were working flat-out on getting as many sign-ups as possible completed before we had to stop the lettings service.
The admin team pulled together dozens of template sign-up packs covering all types of tenancy, the blanks would be filled in later. Housing officers showed incredible flexibility, working together as we rushed to get people into their new homes before the inevitable lock-down. For some, time was just not on their side, with development sites closed and contractors shutting up shop we did have to deliver the heart-breaking news to some that their new home was not going to be ready in time, these people will continue to be supported by MHA.
In the short time before we entered lockdown MHA managed to get more than 40 families into their new homes during the most challenging professional month that most of us can remember, thanks to fast-thinking, dedicated and flexible colleagues.
With every single person in this country adapting to a new approach we were very pleased to be able to do as much as we could for our tenants and continue to support them through financial, well-being and emergency repair services. We are working alongside our tenants as one MHA community to ensure we come out of this crisis stronger.