Final Report – Futures Housing Group - Private Sector Leasing
By Mark Hillary - 24th May 2015
Section 1- Executive Summary
I have an established working relationship with Futures Housing Group (FHG), where I have been
teaching the Level 3 Diploma in Housing Practice, as well as assessing the NVQs of a dozen
candidates. They were good enough to let me to undertake a Lean Six Sigma project.
The chosen subject was their fledgling Private Sector Leasing business. The Manager said the
project would have lots of “x” and “y” and I was able to quickly establish that it should be suitable
for Six sigma as there was little indication of chronic waste but indications that there may be some variation waste.
Futures Vision for PSL –“To provide a range of affordable housing options through the private rented sector and re-invest surpluses to increase the supply of affordable housing.”
There are 5 different types/ flows, of properties under management by the PSL Team and at the
Initial Meeting the Sponsor made a comment about each.
1. HCA (Homes and Communities agency – empty properties). Comes out of Council Tax,
with a grant from the HCA to improve empty properties and let them as useful housing.
About 60 properties. Non-profit making, the scheme is at an end with no new ones, but
continue to manage the existing ones through the 5 year leases. “Big Risk”
2. Homeless Units, Not to be continued and a “Nightmare”
3. LHA (Local Housing Allowance) properties. Not market rent . “Doing ok.”
4. Market Rent. Only 9 units but “this one works”
5. First Steps Project. One building split into rooms. “Makes money”
At 2014/15 year end there were 167 units on the books although this has changed significantly
throughout the year. Highest figure was 184 properties leased but as discussed two of the 5 areas
now being run down.
LHA = 58 units
Market rent = 9 units
Homeless = 3 units
First steps= 11units
HCA = 86 units
The Sponsor quite simply wanted each discreet area to make money and to have better
compliance and control over processes. See define.
The Project Team had been selected and the PSL section was due for a programmed review. The
main resource was the Project Team and their time, as well as access to data from Finance and
Business support sections. A lot of information was routinely measured such as void times, void
costs, arrears, etc. However areas like Customer satisfaction were not relay measured at all and a
pilot was set up to tackle this. Measure influenced decision about process as clearly some results
were disappointing, in Q2 the Financial returns on surpluses were very poor and this was reported
at the time of the project inception making it feel quite negative initially and the staff that they were
However, the results feel quite positive now. Some variation waste but the PSL business is
maturing and getting better at managing its portfolio. The business is dropping 2 of its 5 areas,
although these will continue during the life of the leases, but no new lease will be entered into.
There are real opportunities for the PSL business to grow and develop and achieve the returns
that the Sponsor is looking for. However, there is a need for a culture change and to be freed up
from the over processing of FHG and the short term nervousness about financial returns.
Section 2 - Learning Opportunities
The Advanced Green Belt upgrade course built on my knowledge and experience and boosted my
confidence in tackling Lean and Lean six sigma projects. I particularly began to understand the
difference between chronic waste and variation waste.
As I did not have a work project, I approached several organisations where I had contacts to ask if
they had anything I could help them with. FHG were keen to use my Consultancy skills to help
them with a programmed Service Review, as they had restricted resources within their own
Business Improvement Team, and where they were also lacking some particular housing
However, there were several obstacles in this situation. It was very different to my Master Lean
Belt Project where I was employed as a Business Improvement Manager. The status and
influence I had there, and did not have at FHG, were considerable. There was an appointed
Project Team that covered a wide range of staff from the organisation. However, it became
apparent very soon that several of the “pressed” people were not keen to be there. They felt that
they had other, better things to do in their busy working lives. Some of these staff were clearly
peripheral to the understanding of the processes but I had hoped that their wider experience would
have aided the learning within the Group. I did not insist and instead arranged to meet some of
the specialist people from finance and Business analysis separately, and established a core team
of the staff who relay understood the working of PSL. It did take time to build trust with this core
group and was extremely hard work on occasions to get a level of enthusiasm with the team. See
Movement & Provocation discussion in Section 6. and need more time and frankly good will to get
We were also restricted on time. I have wanted the equivalent of 1 hour a week, as 2 hours a
fortnight but was restricted to one hour a fortnight and had to come up with homework and out of
team meeting devises to cover the ground. However, once we got onto Affinity and
interrelationship diagrams and risk mapping, the group became more interested and developed a
more positive attitude and in the end came up with some really good work and ideas.
Whilst a considerable amount of work went into the definition of the project the two main reasons
for the Review from the Senior Management point of view within FHG were that; it was
programmed, and that the 2nd Quarter figures were disappointing and there was nervousness
within the organisation that it could lose money. There was a real danger around December.
January 2014/15 that the PSL project could be closed down. This did not add to the morale of the
remaining part of the Project team as they saw my intervention with some distrust. It was,
therefore, extremely hard work, at times to get cooperation, data, and information. It was also
hard to get the Team to do extra “homework” for instance I was very concerned about the number
of visits required in the service standards sand asked for the Team to keep diaries of visits over a
4 week period. This did not happen and see above, this would not have occurred where I was
inside the Organisation with Management authority. It became a trust issue with the team, as
clearly I could have gone over their heads and got the Sponsor to have insisted but I did not see
this as an approach conducive to learning and cooperation. On this particular issue, I have
included that this be done in my recommendations and I am sure that they see the point or
organising the limited resources in a lean way to chunk these visits together.
Data collection and date analysis. Data was provided in good formats and it was clear that there
is a very good level of financial management and control at FHG. However, the data was not
always in a form that I could manipulate to seek special causes and variation waste. A particular
bone of contention was that I wanted to see the figures for the 180 odd properties individually to
compare costs and income and the difference being surplus. Average figures and figure by all
type of property were available but not for each one of the 180 addresses. As with the visits I
have merely dealt with this in my recommendations, in that they should be able to drill down to this
level and identify individual properties within the 5 flows, and try to analyse why 2 apparently
similar homes produce very different return.
The project ran for 4 month but a lot of the data came at the end. This made it difficult to measure
and analyse and take the Project through the DMAIC (T) gates. It also made data analysis hard for
What is apparent for me in terms of the course is that a much higher level of Excel ability is
probably required as a prerequisite. I have learned a great deal in the last 4 months but probably
need more input on the analysis of variation and using the Excel tools. I now feel very satisfied
after speaking to Stan that I have a reasonable understanding of standard variation, six sigma and
how to use some of the spreadsheets.
I also realised that I had no access to process drawing technology at home; I had used Visio
previously in a work environment but did not have this so my process drawing had to be by hand.
Learning Opportunities for FHG from the Project.
Part of the Futures philosophy was to learn about this market to grow a small business within the
main business, to both provide a small number of homes but also to put a “toe in the water” of this
market. However the Project Sponsor at the initial meeting said he wanted each of the five
different types of property let within PSL to “wash its face”.
FHG has established ways of working through a well organised Business Improvement Team and
experienced staff. Their use of Storyboards and other techniques was interesting and a learning
opportunity for me.
Section 3 - Introduction
The PSL Project is a programmed review. However, it has become more important because of
poor figures in Quarter 2 of this financial year (14/15). There is plenty of data and an established
Project Team with the expertise to improve performance and position the PSL business for the
futures and an expanding role.
FHG see PSL as a gateway to a wider Market renting business, and as RP (Registered Providers,
of Social Housing) look at an uncertain future they are constantly looking for opportunities to
diversify and new business opportunities.
This report will explain how the Project Team worked together over 3 ½ months, in 9 Project
Meetings to deal with immediate performance issues that have been identified in Financial control.
However, the Project is also interested in the longer term viability of this business area, as well as
the culture of this private sector business within a Social Housing provider.
What is apparent at once is that the task is huge as it contains five different areas of business and
is in fact looking at the A to Z of a whole business area. With the time and other resources
available, it needed to be quickly established what could and could not be achieved. There are
masses of process material and procedure but in reality, the PSL business was set up and found
its way and is probably in real need of a review and re assessment of its role and business impact.
Brief Stakeholder analysis. (See more in Define.)
Main Customers; Tenants, Landlords and discussed prospective tenants, needing a home. A
whole discussion about the homes shortage and FHG as a provider of Social Housing serving this
greater good. This runs somewhat contrary to the notion of each of the 5 strands “washing its
face” and raises questions of cross subsidy and using the profitable areas to fund this need.
Clearly there is a level at which the main business will not be prepared to tolerate losses in any of
the 5 areas of PSL business.
Staff . Clearly the 3 people in the actual PSL Team (2 ½ posts) and the wider staff involved in this
area and the just the wider Staff of FHG who could benefit through increased opportunities if this
whole venture is a success.
The 2 ½ staff’s wages and on costs are the main fixed cost in the PSL business and as the
business expands their ability to work effectively is a key issue to the returns on investment.
Really big issue about hidden costs and subsidy. E.g. the Customer Services Centre (CSC) takes
their calls, surveyors do technical work and Finance and HR carry out normal duties. The PSL
team have a big issue with the hidden “back Office “costs of FHG. However, there is no service
level agreement for this. It could be too bureaucratic to set all this up with one part of the business
collecting money from another, but needs to be considered. There is a real need in its fledgling
state for PSL to take advantage of everything; grants, subsidy, resources, and contribute the least
possible to the overheads of the main business.
Running the Project
Original Project Team
• EL – Private Sector Coordinator
• PJ – Head of Asset Management
• AS– Investment Planning & Financial Analyst
• DP -Development Project Manager
• SB – Performance Analyst
• & Project Manager – Mark Hillary (MH)
Not present - Project Sponsor - PP- Executive Director
This team had been set up as PSL was due for a review and these staff were allocated to the
Project. Soon became clear that some of them did not see that they had a lot to contribute and it
was decided to try and work with a core team of those really involved day to day in PSL work.
Also added MS, trainee Business Improvement officer, later into the Project.
Also on resources whilst the Project Manager wanted one hour a week equivalent by meeting for 2
hours every two weeks, this was impossible for operational reasons and it was agreed to meet for
one hour every 2 weeks and see what could be achieved.
Project sponsor wanted the Project to be completed by April 2015. However, part of the Analysis
was to do with the Quarterly figures on each of the 5 flows. Part of the issue had been the poor
performance in Q2. Later suggested that the project be extended until Q4 figures were available.
Agreed to produce a Final report for Week commencing 25.5.15.
Initial Meeting with Sponsor – 18.12.14, see comment on each of the 5 business areas.
Project Meetings (all Thursday pm, except where shown.)
Meeting 1- 8.1.15
Meeting 2 -27.1.15
Meeting 3 – 5.2.15
Meeting 4 -19.2.15
Meeting 5 -4.3.15 (Wednesday)
Meeting 6 -19.3.15
Meeting 7- 2.4.15
Meeting 8- 16.4.15
Meeting 9- 30.4.15
Gate Review – Define – Meeting with Sponsor 5 February 2105
Gate Review – Measure & analyse, by email 5/6 May 2015
Gate Review – Improve and Control, by email 27 May 2015.
(Full notes of each meeting in Appendix.)
There clearly are time and resource pressures on everyone and the initial suggestion of 2 hours a
fortnight for 3 months was later reduced. Project to be delivered by the end of March 2015.
Methodology. MH briefly explained the way the Project would be run and the Team were
generally comfortable with Lean/ Lean Six sigma ideas. Confirmed would use a DMAIC (T)
methodology and one of the established FHG storyboards.
At each part of DMAIC will offer a Gate review to the Sponsor, to review progress and may try to
combine parts as time is tight.
Also looked at the Lean Principles
• The Value Stream
• The Pursuit of Perfection
Section 4 - Define
The first issue was to define the Project. FHG use an in- house methodology, based on an
“Investors In Excellence” methodology. Look at Standard Quod of aim. (See photo and write up)
Lot of discussions at the initial meeting, following the sponsor’s initial thoughts.
Purpose. Part of this was that PSL was due for a review in an internal cycle of such reviews.
However, there was real concern that in Quarter 2 (14/15) the overall performance of all the
property portfolio was down and some areas were seen as performing very badly. There was
almost an impression that the review was to save the PSL function and that unless matters turned
around for the better the whole idea could be scrapped.
Project Team tried to identify all areas, as well as the strengths & weaknesses of the current ways
There are 5 Areas in the PSL operations and the Sponsor wanted all 5 Areas have to “wash their
face”. However, as discussed it was conceded that this initiative was providing housing that would
not otherwise be there. Some private landlords were struggling with properties that they could not
rent and with Futures involvement they could be useable. This has an overall effect on the
locality, with fewer derelict properties and reflected the overall Business plan aim to provide Hones
over 30 years.
In there publicity, see below, to Landlords they show a worked example offering Landlords £2,648
extra per annum in the PSL arrangement. However, FHG then take on all the risk associated with
void downturn for the lease period, and the PSL function therefore has to be efficient.
Learning for further projects and initiatives, and consider this for Transfer at the end of the Project.
Diversification into the market renting business. “Toe in the water” Open market rent & sales
Examine the Culture of section & organisation
Stakeholders & Benefits
• Customers; Tenants, Landlords and discussed prospective tenants, needing a home
(homes shortage.) As a provider of Social Housing.
• Local Authorities (empty Homes Officers)
• Improve Process & Finance
• Audit proof
• HCA, no future but manage on going 5 year leases.
Measures of Success
• Tenant satisfaction
• Landlord satisfaction, return business.
• Makes money
• Provides Homes (See Business Plan, over 30 years)
Quod of Aims
Identify all areas, strengths & weaknesses.
All 5 Areas have to “wash their face”
Learning for further projects and initiatives
Examine the Culture of section & organisation
Open market rent & sales
Stakeholders & Benefits
Customers; Tenants, Landlords and
discussed prospective tenants, needing a
home (homes shortage.)
As a provider of Social Housing.
Local Authorities (empty Homes Officers)
“Toe in the water”
Improve process & Finance
HCA, no future but manage on going 5 year
Measures of Success
Landlord satisfaction, return business.
Provides Homes (See Business Plan, over 30
Table 1.Quod of Aims.
What’s the Project really about?
Private Sector Leasing is an increasingly important area and a very useful devise to bring vacant
properties back into use, politically very important with a perception of wasted housing. It should
appeal to two markets. Landlords with properties that they want to let, and prospective tenants
needing a home. By getting the process right there is a profit to be made as well as providing even
180 homes that would otherwise nit be in use. However, getting the process wrong means
For Landlords a managing agent can offer:
Guaranteed rent, whether the property has tenants or not. Security of a long term lease with the
option of an extension. No management fee and a professional property management service. A
dedicated team fully committed to delivering a quality service.
During the lease the property will be looked after, with a range of services, at a competitive price,
• Gas safety checks
• Electrical safety checks
• Competitive maintenance services
• 24 hour emergency service for repairs
• Organising day-to-day repairs
• Eight-weekly tenancy visits to your property to make sure it is being looked after
• Free legal service in the event of non-payment of rent or anti-social behaviour
We will hand back your property at the end of lease with any repairs completed (except for wear
and tear) and any damaged items will be repaired, replaced or compensated for.
Lots of competition for Futures on the High street so they need to consider the USPs for a Social
Landlord getting into this business, including the size of the organisation, professionalism,
expertise. However the main issue for Private Landlords may be the figures shown in Fig. 1, low
risk and guaranteed income, regardless of void time, equally a bit risk for FHG.
Why is it important
There are other people wanting to be housed who are not eligible for Social Housing. These may
range from Young professionals, who are mobile even transitory, and want to be able to go where
the work is and not want to be bound by a mortgage. At the other end of the scale the First steps
model is like the Foyer model with single, younger people needing a place to stay to facilitate work
Foyers are typically owned and run by Registered Social Landlords. A Foyer is an integrated
learning and accommodation centre providing safe and secure housing; support and training for
young people aged 16-25. See references.
Risks. (See full risk analysis)
Doing it badly, not collecting the rent, allowing FTAs to build up.
Paying too much for repairs and maintenance.
Having void time while paying the Landlord.
Signing up an unsuitable tenant.
FHG need to match the property and area with the needs and wants of the prospective tenants
and take more time in this process and refuse an occupier if necessary.
Private Sector Leasing Strategy (28.5.15)
Sets out the Vision; To provide a range of affordable housing options through the private rented
sector and re-invest surpluses to increase the supply of affordable housing.
FHG will do this by;
• Providing an accessible and transparent service for landlords and tenants.
• Offering Landlords leases of five years or longer.
• Ensuring properties are let at appropriate standards
• Ensuring rents are set using Local Housing allowance.
• Provide tenants with appropriate security of tenure
• Accessing funding where possible
• Using supply and demand data to target properties in the most beneficial regions
• Marketing the service to landlords and potential tenants in the region.
Private sector leasing within the Group just started as a good business idea and an area that FHG
should be in. Not particularly planned, certainly no planned processes. Really a one woman show
with Emma Lindley making it happen, that grew and now has 200 properties now (see business
plan) See Quod of Aims discussion above on focussed and broader aims.
Issue around this is that the PSL team works as a discreet business unit within FHS. Has its own
procedures for asb, rents, repairs, etc. Issue to be considered is if it could use the established
business processes and expertise of the group. Discussion that the culture of the units was
intentionally set up to make it business like apart from social renting. Team have mapped an “As
is” process of the whole of their business. MH wants to do a Value Stream map (VSM) of all the 5
areas, but the team do not necessarily see the value in this. However, happy to look next time at
the Repairs & Rents processes within the overall process.
A lot of ideas and see Affinity and interrelationship diagrams used here to help define issues and
complexities of the processes and ideas. See in Section 6 where used for discussion on
Gate review completed 5
th February 2015
Section 5 - Measure & Analyse
How the deal is advertised on the FHG website.
Rent out your property through us
A private sector lease is a legal agreement between a property owner and Futures
Homescape Limited (FHL).
The PSL allows us to sub-let the property to people in need of housing. FHL is
responsible for paying rent to you as the owner. The rent is guaranteed so even if
the property is vacant you will still receive a regular income. We are also responsible
for managing the property and you need have no direct contact with the occupier.
PSL vs. letting agent
Figures are over a 5 year period, based on a 2 bedroom terraced property in
Alfreton, valued at £408pcm.
Fig 1. Landlord benefits
• In our five year leases you will receive all these benefits:
• A comprehensive letting service, with full vacant possession at the end of the lease;
• Rent paid monthly in arrears direct into your bank
• A dedicated housing advisor to manage your property and the tenancy, including issuing
tenancy agreements, visiting the property, ensuring the tenant abides by the agreement,
attempting to resolve any disputes between tenants and neighbours and carrying out
possession proceedings as required.
• When you lease your property to us you are guaranteed rental income, whether it is
tenanted or not. The rent that you receive may be lower than open market value, but this is
• A long term agreement
• No agency or management fee to pay
• No void periods to allow for
• Day to day repairs, emergency repairs and tenant damage dealt with by FHL
• At the end of the lease FHL will continue to pay the agreed rent until your property can be
handed back with full vacant possession and bear the cost of any legal action needed to
Properties on the books at year end 14/15
LHA – 58
Market Rent – 9
Homeless - 3
First steps - 11
HCA - 86
Total - 167
See Benchmarking report 11/14
See quarterly financial performance in Control section.
• Void turnaround target is 7 days
• Rent arrears 14-15 was 3.5%, 15-26 is 2.5%
• FTAs not previously had a target this year we’ve said to reduce historic arrears by £10,000
and to accrue no more than £30,000 and 30 new cases of FTAs in 2015-16
• Customer satisfaction is 85% satisfied or very satisfied with the overall service
• We visit each property every quarter (any visit by the PSL team counts), once they have
had 3 satisfactory visits, it is reduced to once every 9 months, unless there is a cause for
Fig 2. Voids “As is”
Reasonably clear that the business income is fixed and has to be maximised by collecting the
highest % of rent as possible. Key issue then to minimise expenditure by reducing repair or any
other management costs, and therefore process in these areas is important.
Discussion of hidden costs; e.g. CSC takes repairs but no SLA for this. Report into appraised
cost s and overheads, including repairs copy to be sent to MH.
Service standards, does the section need a different level on these?
Benchmarking There is a HQN document done by Emma that she will send to MH.
The Private Sector Leasing Strategy (28.5.13) and was particularly interesting with a best case
I&E account shown on page 13. (See graph below). It may well be that there is less expectation
now, but still seeking a surplus of over £100,000 in 21 months’ time from about £20,000 now.
Was this projection realistic and how had it been arrived at? If this is the expectation of the
Sponsor then, whilst there may be an efficient business model operating, there is going to be a
real need for some future initiatives and a good reason for this project. Clearly there is also a
worst case on Page 12. See below
Fig 3 -From PSL Strategy report
Suggested that the overall headings looked something like this. ?
Spine of Processes.
➔Finance for Properties
➔Handing properties back
One key action for the Project was to map all the processes involved. Able to collect virtually all
the individual processes that make up this Spine by looking at existing FHG process. Not
completely convinced that they are all used in the same way within PSL but they probably only
need tweaking to make them flow. Lots of the early discussion about process was bogged down
in who enters information onto Orchard and who fills in the Pink forma. Frankly with limited time
and resources this Project unable to examine all this transactional process and symptomatic of a
13/14 14/15 15/16 16/17
Best Case PSL 5 Year I&E Accont
descript business trying to work within a lager bureaucratic organisation. Not saying it does not
have to be done but needs tidying up from the inside.
From the Root cause analysis apparent that there are a few a main areas that need to be
considered and this project will concentrate on these. Try and select or sort all the information into
similar families of services, see diagram below. .
Fig 4 – Group of products or services.
For the 5 types of properties under management, 2 are not to be continued; Homeless and HCA,
so apart from maintaining the leases that exist and may run on for several years, not a great deal
of effort from this Project will go into these.
Of the 3 other flows; First steps is “bucking” the trend and to be expanded with a further 7 rooms
on the horizon. Demographic analysis locally suggests that this type of housing is needed
particularly for single males who otherwise may be roofless. It is relatively low risk and if a room
becomes vacant it can be re-let very quickly, pulling the mean voids days target down. See new
Some of the data was hard to obtain. Simple model, 187 properties, what does each make, want does
each cost, across the 5 flows.
From a purely business point of view, with a fixed return on the rent available , fixed costs of staff and
overheads , the key to surplus is to keep variable costs, particularly on repairs to a minimum. Real
opportunity to only take on properties to a decent standard and manage the properties tightly with quarterly
visits, but a few bad apples, both properties and tenant can be costly.
Fig 5- Fishbone
From top right clustering ideas;
• 2 ½ staff now run say 200 properties, how could you manage double this? Issues around
quarterly visits to properties and benefits of effort into sustainability; money advice, fire safety, etc.,
against t staff cost.
• Day to day repairs and Voids in each strand. Really big discussion about coming out of the
Futures Framework contactors and straying into Improvement phase, getting a van and a man at
lower cost, perhaps in a partnership set up.
• The cost of Evictions is very high and leads into a wider point on sustainability and by
minimising churn costs. Risks with small margins in one badly trashed property damaging the
whole business model.
• Go back to the definition where the sponsor is more interested in selecting the customers
rather than dealing with the consequences. Target young professionals. Very little advertising or
publicity, just home people who are referred. Consider the external market. Possibilities to cross
subsidise into Homeless.
• Also discussion on the sustainability of the PSL business and holding nerve through poor Q
figures and building over time.
• Discussion in detail about the different customers and standards of the different stands.
Market renting was usually new build. HCA and LHA were re-furbished properties to a good
standard (Define?) Homeless were not as good. Voids always had fixed costs; clean, gas & elec,
• In a business like culture real opportunity to try to influence the development of property
even on a small scale to actually plan and build what was required, rather than just try to let what
there was, could be a real change in emphasis. Target builders to build in particular areas?
• Question about possibility of Mutual Exchanges?
By going back to the original Fishbone where we had two main flows in Sustainability and the right
tenants for the right properties, and then the physical works to properties and when they are Void.
Need to review whether or not there was anything obvious that had been missed out? Look
particularly at the Technology leg where there is nothing. Paul suggested; Demographics and
advertising as issues, not necessarily root causes that could be logged here.
He felt that the whole issue about Sustainability may need deeper analysis of demographic
information and profiling in planning going forward if there was a good match. Also then on
targeting the tenants they actually wanted through adverting in the right place , including stepping
up on Social Media, to attract the right people, rather than just lettings the first applicant have the
property. Major implications of Universal credit on the social housing and private markets.
Particular issue with single males and suggest the 1st steps model, where risks were lower as a
way forward? Big issue on building for rent rather than managing rented property.
Main Project areas from Fishbone.
• Sustainability. Several costly evictions/ abandonments where the property is left in no state
to be re-let any time soon.
• Cost and time of repairs and void works.
• FTA (former Tenants arrears) some relay large debts and with such low volumes, one of
two of these can really damage the business model.
• Staff resources and need for growth, need for efficiencies.
Technology not mentioned in first analysis but went back to this. Must be major issue about
advertising, social media and attracting the right people in the right medium.
Voids – Turnaround time.
Not a normal distribution, extreme positive skew.
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47
Number of voids
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 51
Standard deviation 13.03
Target 7 days
0-6 6 27 27
7-13 13 37 10
14-20 20 41 4
21-27 27 43 2
28-34 34 47 4
35-41 41 49 2
42-48 48 51 2
Voids Not a normal distribution, extreme positive skew, see frequency distribution chart. May
need to considerer 2 Voids targets. Accept that some are turnaround, with proper Notice in less
than 0 days, particularly in the First steps model, and others just take longer. Target be set for
different property types. i.e. 1st steps model, rooms turned round in a couple of days. See
In total we have leased 184 properties, although we currently have 167 properties in management
as a number have been returned to the owner in the last few months.
Further analysis of 51 voids.
10 Voids were over 20 days, target is 7 days.
0-6 7-13 14-20 21-27 28-34 35-41 42-48
Number of days Type “Reason given”
28 HCA Moved in with brother
35 LHA Eviction
45 LHA Moved to private
48 Homeless Eviction
21 HCA Eviction
28 HCA Eviction
32 Market Bought a home
37 HCA Eviction
30 HCA Moved to private
24 LHA In prison
Of a total of 494 voids days in all cases these 10 represented 328 days, leaving only 166 for the
other 41. Half, so 5 were evictions an issue highlighted in the Fishbone. Relates to the
sustainability point, if FHG could eliminate damaging evictions by letting to the right tenant in the
first place then it would be more beneficial.
Voids spend. Major issue requiring much more work, see Transfer.
Sustainability and churn
Re-lets breakdown as follows for 2014-15:
• X8 homeless
• X13 First Steps
• X16 HCA funded empty homes
• X19 LHA
• X2 Market rent
Re lets is perhaps the thorniest issues in the project and more qualitative than quantitative. The
root of this is probably in the choice of prospective tenants at the time of offer and the pressure to
fill voids. Much more analysis to be done and need for a pilot to test theories on control before
Current tenant arrears (excluding everyone with a direct debit) as at Sunday 26th April 2015
breakdown as follows:
Type Number Amount (£) Mean
LHA 28 5188.94 185.32
Market rent 2 486.86 243.43
homeless cases 2 326.00 163.00
First Steps 5 704.30 140.86
HCA 36 7566.06 210.17
Total 73 cases 14,272.16 942.78
/73 =195.51 188.55 xbar
Re-let compared to arrears. So potentially HCA tenants stay longer but aren’t quite as good at
paying their rent compared to LHA tenants?
See new FTA procedure, with times process steps, but no “As is” process yet.
Fig 9. Bar chart
The data was a list of all the FTAs there had been since PSL started. Systematic sample, every
Fig 10- FTAs systematic sample.
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45
£ in hundreds
Below the UCL and suspect some of the problems in the early days were down to management
errors, which are now fixed. See FTA procedure review.
The Project team wanted to do a deeper analysis of visits. Service standard require 4 a year and
for 167 properties that is 668, and for 2.5 staff that works out at 267.2 each or one every day of a
full working year with no holidays at all. Have to accept that the First steps properties can all be
done on one day, 4 times a year. However, there will also be non- routine visits and serious cases
that take up many hours. Suspect that the Manager does not do a lot of visiting being actively
engaged on other more pressing tasks. For the remaining one and a half people to visit all the
properties as per the service standard looks a big task. Need to think of better ways to define and
do visits. By areas, Greenscape, other agents and to replace visits with phone calls where
appropriate to save an enormous amount of times.
It was suggested that all Team members keep a diary record of all visits over a 4 week period and
then track trips out and back to the office and then plot on a sting/spaghetti diagram and then
cluster to make this more efficient.
Fig 11. –e.g. of a String Diagram analysis for visit.
Only a pilot, see recommendations.
Fig 12 – Customer satisfaction.
Question 1. How likely would you be to rent from us again?
Question 2. How likely to recommend us?
Question 3. Overall experience with us?
Good response from a very limited pilot which needs more volume and more insightful Questions,
what do PSL really need to know from leaving customers?
Lean principles- General impressions
Clearly enormous value in PSL for Landlords and tenants. For Landlords they get peace of mind,
professional service and guaranteed income. For Tenants it is simply, a decent home, reasonable
rent and security of tenure for a period.
A bit trickier. The PSL function sits inside a stock transfer Registered Provider of Social Housing.
The culture of this can still echo back to Council Housing and be bureaucratic. There are endless
process maps showing every conceivable process and form to be completed. The desire is to run
PSL with a “business culture” and linking the customer to the value can be a complicated path.
See “As is” process mapping and new emerging VSM for; creating “Pull” demand in Market
renting, and; Re-lets “First Steps” voids using Greenscape.
Flow by eliminating waste
1 2 3 4 5 6
score out of 10
PSL are tied into FHG’s processes, but as a new business could implement “To be “process
above and remove bottlenecks and blockages in developing a lean approach for a stand-alone
PSL is a real customer focussed business. Tenants wanting to move in, with Landlords wanting
the professional service. Real opportunities to create Pull demand particularly in the Market
renting sector. See early stage “To Be” process. Increase publicity, including the use Social media,
to create a waiting list and then trial the market by asking for a deposit and/or 4 weeks rent in
Pursuit of perfection
Lots of opportunities to Transfer knowledge and learning into a new Project to set up Market
renting at FHG.
Really looks like PSL is a pilot for a much bigger enterprise and more ambitious programme for
FHG to work in Market renting.
Fig 13. - Value and non value added
Gate Review – Measure & analyse, by email 5/6 May 2015
Section 6. Improve, Control and Transfer
The Big picture
It appears that PSL within FHG was set up organically. It was a good idea, with only a little
strategy initially and it has grown and proved to be a really good little business. It has reportedly
just declared a £70,000 surplus and has new properties in the pipeline. The threat of Q2 figures,
uneasy relationship with the back office costs of wider FHG and uncertainty about using wider
FHG process has made the initial period difficult. Under stress Managers and Staff focus on the
immediate and most pressing problems. Narrow focus only seeing the effects of change
elsewhere in the system. There is a real opportunity to widen the focus and find much more
effective solutions and opportunities. The short term has been about establishing the business and
surviving. The longer term should be about being positioned to take opportunities, some risk and
achieving the duel aims of providing homes, and making money.
Systems thinking. Plenty of variables in PSL. ; The people, 5 service areas, and their
surplus/deficits. The number of visits, overhead costs and very real soft variables such as the
morale of the team and their relationship with the wider FHG staff. Much more work to do in this
area; Systemic structures, causal loops and relationship between variables.
Given the time available for the Project Meetings it was decided to use Creativity tools.
Movement and Provocation
To get the Team thinking away from the traditional pattern that had been set, decided to suggest
they were not really needed and there were better solutions.
• Set up an Arm’s length company
• Close you down.
• Not an RSL’s business
We had used an Affinity diagram and Interrelationship diagram in define and again in Improve. On
30 April 2015 organised a Challenge Session to ask, so What? When? Why? How, make the case
for. Others could do what you do; Cheaper, Faster, simpler, easier?
Why not; close it all down as it is too risky?
Or outsource, or partner.
Why not set up an Arm’s length Commercial Company? Futures invest a certain amount into it
and expect a return on investment. Commercial venture and if it fails you all lose your jobs.
Session went from
Maybe/what if ➔➔➔to the illogical/impossible.
NB. the group were quite resistant to this approach and sceptical so it had limited success. Alright
with the provocation about other ways to run the business but dubious about; random noun,
stepping stone approach and for e.g. square wheel, which was discuses at the end of the session.
However, combined with previous detailed work did get them going and provoked useful
discussions. See section 2. Learning opportunities. .
This prompted a really good discussion. See Team Meeting notes.
Fig 14- Movement & provocation technique in Advanced System thinking.
Affinity Diagram exercise. He had gone through all the previous 6 Project Team meeting notes and
considered the Question. “Why was this service up for review”?” What was wrong with it” or “Why are we
here?” Produced post-it notes, and the team then Brainstormed to add to these.
Keep in mind the 8 deadly wastes
Fig 16 - 8 Wastes- the last one on talent keeps coming up!
Figure 17 - Affinity diagram - Why PSL? (See full post its in appendix. )
Next time we move this Affinity diagram into an Inter-relationship diagram.
See full post it notes in appendix
Mention of cost and control as the 2 biggest drivers. Look at a sort of Contractor/ Client
relationship. Think about the Optimum size for such an operation, perhaps too small and under
resourced as it is, so how many; 500? Private renting bit not fit together well. In Amber Valley
know there is a big demand for Private renting property. , but people are not approaching us, but
there is a Gap in the market. Consider issues and costs, barriers and economies of scale. Need a
nurturing environment to grow quite a fragile product, not) to 100 in 5 seconds. Longer term
strategy and no panic at one apparent poor quarter figures. Only make money say in 5 years
made £30k in Year 2.
Compare to Futures with a £1M surplus on £ 24M turnover with PSL did £30k last year from rent
roll of £630,000 so in similar proportion. Feel sometimes its rules, more rules and then some more
invented rules, which make a business culture operation, responding to a flexible market very
tricky. Should make a surplus but also wider aims on a longer term strategy. . Needs a message
to the rest of the business to keep to business Futures values to innovate. Purpose here is to help
the overall business but also use it as a pilot to learn skills and knowledge in this type of business.
Emma raised South Yorkshire Homes that tried a similar venture. (? find out more)
MH wanted to know why not run it at Arm’s length? As a commercial partner or arm that sits
outside and Futures invests in? Below is an example of an Inter-relationship diagram where the
header cards from the Affinity diagram can be sorted by “ins” and “outs”
Figure 18- Inter relationship diagram
Discussion. Team encouraged to use the exercise to brain storm again and this led to
considerable discussion came out of this exercise, not to worry about moaning but to say how they
felt. ; Looking at the 5 different parts of PSL, First steps & supported model in particular. Issue
around potential for this service and needs; i.e. Mental health. How to shape the service.
Economies of scale. Better Vfm, reduce costs, particularly back office. Killed by the back office
costs. Efficiencies in back office. IT links. Loss leading, riding out back Quarterly figures. Cross
subsidise parts of the business to make the profitable pay for the needed. Getting ready for new
Development Team. 200 new properties. Same size of PSL Team. SP difficulties. Extra care.
Too slow to take advantage of opportunities. Developing small sites, garage sites, 4 or 5 houses.
PSL as a pilot to accept some loss but to learn the business? Used as a Provocation, see Fig XX.
Ditch whole thing and outsource, but then outsource the whole business!
Slight concern that the Inter relationship diagram joined almost everything with everything, all 5 or
6. However, the exercise did stimulate discussion to a very useful level.
Process “to be”
Create “Pull” Demand in Market rent and use Deposits.
For market renting , could advertise more widely and get a waiting list of keen customers, create
“Pull demand”, on low supply and charge a deposit and rent in advance. If there was then a
subsequent issue with void loss or FTAs offset against deposit income. Always criticisms in
Private rental market of what is often seen as a rip off, with Landlords appearing to do everything
they can to not return deposits. Clear opportunity here to run an ethical policy.
Re-let “First Steps” Voids using Greenscape.
13 re-lets in a year, only 11 Units so big churn. look to change the specific void target here to 3 or
2 days and use Greenscape to turn them round really quickly, similar to the Van and a man model
so wanted by the Manager. Depends on whether you know the void is coming or not. Planned
voids versus non planned Voids.
Blockages. In waiting for main Framework contractor to programme in the work, that may just be
clearing and checking. Not in first Steps but consider the Gas check each time or once a year.
Clear➔ fix➔ decorate➔ clean➔Let.
Voids. Different targets for different voids and a new process for First Steps voids, using
Greenscape. Query, does each change of occupier need a gas check? Answer, First Steps does
not have gas, but in a similar type of letting arrangement this could slow the process down.
FTAs considerable improvement now through better management. Some of the very large debts
are historic and lessons have been learned. Fits with tighter Financial Control which is in place
now with better monitoring and action.
Firstly, who moves into these properties is completely under FHG’s control. The Sponsor’s main
comment on the initial Definition was that he wanted to see control start at “sign up” rather than “in
occupancy”. The culture in Social Housing has always been to fill voids. If you have a living
breathing prospective tenant then get them in ASAP. Clearly most Registered Providers (RP) are
trying to house people in need, often with vulnerabilities, and the clock is ticking on void targets.
FHG also has choices over partners, particularly Landlords, some of whom will be small property
owners who are looking for security in dealing with a professional organisation and with the best
will in the word cannot react to repair and management issues that will arise.
There is a clearly a real gap in the market, FHG as the biggest Landlord in the area should be able
to out-perform local letting agencies, help small private landlords and learn more about the private
retail market in a controlled way.
The culture change for a Stock transfer Registered Provider moving into a private sector business
environment should not be underestimated. It is gratifying to see that this was recognised at the
very beginning seeing this as an opportunity to get a “toe in the water”. However, it is equally
understandable that financial risk comes into play and business confidence cannot always be
maintained in new ventures. “Amber is the new red” was a comment that resonated with the staff
as well as a feeling of missing opportunities to move the business on through conservative
A key issue that arose almost immediately was the desire for the PSL to grow, perhaps to twice its
present portfolio, and a concern that the present resources of 2 and half posts would have the
ability to cope.
The main Control in this whole Project is Financial. 2 of the 5 flows are not to be continued, for the
rest it is a matter of staying on path and monitoring monthly accounts.
Set and monitor Control charts.
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33 35 37 39 41 43 45 47 49 51
Fig19- FTA Sample of 35 cases (Page 2), with highest and lowest found, shows 2 cases above
standard deviation 1140.02
Target maximum 7.00
Two cases Flat 43d High Street, Heanor - £4,770.07 and Flat 186a Station road, Langley Mill -
£ 4,405.77 above Upper control Level of this sample. Special causes to be investigated and
rectified in operational terms but also in process. The Manager feels that some early cases were
just badly managed as the fledgling business got going and experience was gained. Real issue
about using the expertise in the wider FHG, Income Team, Debt advice, Neighbourhood Teams to
intervene , or at least use to guide and train staff. Real culture of us and them. In process term
need to be flagged up on control chart as to how and why the debt got so high in the first place.
Control to report case to Manager . These 2 cases together are worth over £9,000 against a
reported recent surplus of £70,000.
Fig. 20- Net profit (See Q2) and number of Units
There are clear opportunities within Process control to make improvement with; voids, arrears,
FTAs, satisfaction, etc. After eliminating early mistakes and establishing process control there
needs to be a drive to increase values and “sales” over time. See projection in the strategy, to
represent better value against the fixed costs, mainly of the staff.
Financial control is strong within FHG; the real issue was the loss of confidence when Q2’s figures
were disappointing in a time of real financial pressure.
PKIs well monitored and reported.
Void turnaround target is 7 days
Rent arrears 14-15 was 3.5%, 15-26 is 2.5%
FTAs not previously had a target this year we’ve said to reduce historic arrears by £10,000 and to
accrue no more than £30,000 and 30 new cases of FTAs in 2015-16
Customer satisfaction is 85% satisfied or very satisfied with the overall service
Visits. Each property every quarter (any visit by the PSL team counts), once they have had 3
satisfactory visits, it is reduced to once every 9 months, unless there is a cause for concern
• The next real opportunity for FHG is in Market rent property. Take the developed business
culture in present PSL. Whether in-house or at Arm’s length this business opportunity
should be explored in a further Project. FHG could Invest and set % return, but as with Q2
figures the business would need to be nurtured and given time. Develop Futures
Greenscape as an internal Voids and odd job contractor and pilot for PSL. By developing a
Social enterprise the ability to take on apprentices and train on the job are exciting. .
• FHG could develop a better culture for continuous improvement; the last of the 8 wastes
kept coming up where an exciting opportunity and new culture was in view but a real level
of frustration at not taking opportunities and using talents. Improving Staff satisfaction really
could be improved by increasing ownership in process.
• Customer Satisfaction. Very little done in this area and as throughout this Project with such
low volumes and
• The Development process, moving quickly to secure opportunities. Long process in
Housing to identify the need, secure sites and funding and deliver properties that are
wanted at the right time. Often the market will have changed. .
• Taking business opportunities and still mitigating risk. Share with partners, local builders.
• Mutual exchanges were raised several times as the needs of current tenants change and
should be explored further.
• Real opportunities to organise in- house training on specialist areas from mainstream FHG
staff, particularly around sustainability; e.g. money advice.
Gate Review – Improve and Control, by email 27 May 2015.
Section 7- Conclusion
Real issues for FHG as a Social Landlord trying to move into a more commercial environment. Its
Business plan aim is to provide homes over a 30 years period, but it also wants to take advantage
of an opportunity to make a profit. Within that aim it also wants to bring unused properties back
The private housing market varies enormously across the UK. It appears that you can rent a dog
kennel in London for a thousand pounds a week. In the East Midlands, and more locally in Amber
Valley and the surrounding areas, it varies enormously. A key issue, and where FHG has a major
advantage, understands the locality. Whether there is a market to build smart homes for
professionals, or if the site is in completely the wrong areas. FHG could carry out this kind of
analysis for itself but also consider Mosaic, for people and areas.
So why would a Tenant or a Landlord choose FHG? Answer, we don’t know. Much more voice of
the customer needed before this can be addressed. Most tenants do not really care who their
Landlord is. It’s about the right place, time and price, and then how they judge the service they
receive. Registered Providers are hard wired to get properties let ASAP and more care needs to
be taken to get this right in the first place than mop up afterwards.
Once agreeing to take on the PSL project it became apparent that it is in fact 5 business streams
flowing in different ways. It is also a complex business, not in volume of properties, but in process
as it covers everything from A to Z in a mini way. All this within a business, with hidden costs and
subsidies. There is a perfectly acceptable view to take advantage of everything allowable to a
Registered Provider and then trying to behave as a private business.
From a purely business point of view, with a fixed return on the rent available , fixed costs of staff
and overheads , the key to surplus is to keep variable costs, particularly repairs and voids to a
minimum. Real opportunity to only take on properties to a decent standard, manage them tightly,
but a few bad apples; properties and tenants, can be costly.
As a business, within a business, there is no lack of process. Who fills in the pink form is probably
a very important question that remains unanswered. However, from the Spine of processes shown
in Define, the staff know what to do. However, could they do it better, sustain improvement and
growth? As their knowledge increases and the desired culture to be more business-like is allowed
to flourish they are moving in the right direction.
The decision to reduce from 5 types of property let, to only 3 should make the process issues
easier to deal with. Need to recognise the 3 remaining models and treat them differently, however
combining overall process where possible. Examples of this may be to consider Deposits in
market renting that would probably not work in First steps
The word “culture” was used a lot in an effort to set up and maintain a separate business within
Futures. However, a need for a supportive culture, whilst the business grows. Sir Alex Ferguson
could have been sacked by Manchester United in the first 5 barren years but patience resulted in
many more years of success eventually.
The whole learning culture at FHG is also interesting, with some reluctance to be involved and
busy people with little time to learn. Also Muda, particularly the 8
th waste of talent and not using
creativity. The present PSL set up is trying to have the best of both worlds but appears stifled by a
new culture in the midst of the old one. If ever there was a business opportunity to see what can
be achieved in Social housing this is probably it.
Investigate working as an Arm’s Length Company to run the PSL area within a wider market
renting area with a set % return on the investment.
Look for an opportunity to partner with a local builder / site finders for development opportunities.
Develop Greenscape as a social enterprise to become more of a complete contractor, particularly
for voids. .
3. New Business
Look at the market and anticipate opportunities. The project did not really look at the detail of the
Development process; this was discussed at the initial meeting but remains for the future. Some
frustration from the Team that opportunities are not taken as the organisation is not geared up in a
timely way to seize opportunities. Some caution here on taking the wrong opportunities on
speculative development. There are site finding businesses out there who will follow up outline
planning permission and vacant sites (e.g. of one; Platow Associates Ltd, that works nationally.)
Also opportunities to develop relationships with local builders and property developers to spread
risk to increase the supply of affordable housing. The scandal of private property lying empty
while people live in temporary accommodation is a growing political issue.
Look for return business with good landlords.
Use demographics to anticipate emerging markets.
Look more into Mosaic, that FHG already uses (see references) as a way to define areas and
chose more suitable people and property and match right people to right homes.
Investigate the demand for 1st steps type housing.
Improve Marketing and local profile.
Quite a surprise for the staff to see some of the Projections and examine the pipeline to see the
growth in potential properties. Trying to assess the optimum staffing size needs more detailed
work and as the main fixed cost real care.
Only a pilot and limited in the project but voice of the customer with perhaps survey tenants once a
year aim to carry out 100% exit interviews when the keys come back.
Voids . Do all PSL voids have to be treated in the same way as general FHG voids? The analysis
of all 51 PSL Voids showed an extreme positive skew suggesting that at least two different
targets would make sense. Turning the First steps rooms round in two days should be easy. Two
aspects to this one repair costs and time. Opportunity to pilot First Steps voids with the Social
Enterprise Greenscape . and if successful move this into other areas of work. Manger wanted a
van and a man, almost instant action keep in house to avoid VAT. Voids . Time and cost.
Already do painting, decorating, grass cutting and grounds maintenance. Also voids clearance
internally and to private landlords. Also a Handyman service to tenants. Tension here at using
the main FHG contractors, low scale and quick turnaround seen as vital. Void turnaround
suggests (see Fig 6.) 2 targets; 1st steps and general. 3 days and 7 days? Target “special
Repairs and Maintenance. Dependent on the lease and arrangements with the Landlord. Time
and cost are important here. Looking to develop with Greenscape another opportunity to keep inhouse, saving VAT, but take out most non specialist work from the Framework contact and to
extend the Social enterprise role with an opportunity to train staff and learn.
Sustainability. Really need to consider turning down Landlords, new tenants and other
opportunities if they are not right. Aim for right first time on lettings. Use Money advice and
specialist income recovery teams Court expertise, as well as Neighbourhood Management more.
Deposits. The Point of control is at sign up. If the higher end of the market can have real
demand then this would become an option in a commercial way.
Arrears Rent arrears, increasing target in 2015 from 3.5% to 2.5% clear need to learn from inhouse specialists.
FTAs . Some variation waste in chosen sample, but more control now from Management. Look
into deposits and rent in advance to offset this. Investigate further, particularly at the higher end
of the market, where there is a genuine possibility to establish Pull demand. This can be done
through better publicity for a scarce supply of good homes. Look to pilot their use of deposits and
rent in advance for market renting
Visits. Real need to map the reality of visits as not sure how they get done. Cluster visits,
telephone instead, all agent and contractors keep a note of being on the land and report back on
problems. The number of routine visits, in the service standards, alone would make a doubling
from 184 properties very hard to manage at an exhausting 588 each. 1st Steps is very different
from other far flung separate houses, and over Inspection is a waste. Consider varying service
standard by type of property.
Mutual exchange. Investigate possibilities further.
8. Financial Control
Know the return on every one of the 184 (167) properties, analyse this and get rid of the ones that
are costing the business money. This is done by stream as an average but with such a low
volume should be known at the push of a button.
Net profit. Told that the PSL leasing area has made a surplus of over £70,000 this year so moving
towards Best case scenario shown in projection for growth in Fig 3.
9. Risks. (See full risk chart.)
General election on 7th May 2015. Right to Buy for Housing Association property.
Universal credit implications.
Loss of Housing Benefit by younger people
Also some risk of a Social Housing provider becoming too focussed on the Market and forgetting
its core purpose to provide affordable homes. Waters already muddied by “Affordable “ rents at
20% below market, so several layers of service to different customers makes operations more
1. Investigate setting up an Arm’s Length Company to run the PSL area within a wider market
2. Turn down Landlords, new tenants and other opportunities if they are not right.
3. Set up a pilot to use Futures Greenscape as the Void contractor in the First steps model, and if
this is successful move this into other areas of work.
4. Resources. Monitor this and do more analysis to work out optimum team size, with regard to an
expanded market renting area of business.
5. Voice of the customer, survey customers throughout their stay and ensure exist surveys are
6. Investigate Deposits further particularly at the higher end of the market. Use better publicity to
build, and pull through demand, to create genuine competition for the relatively low supply of
property. This all depends on providing the right product in the right place at the right price again.
7. Look in more detail at how to do visits and if they are really necessary.
8. Continue work on process, as detailed in conclusions, to tailor these for each of the three
remaining types of lets