Affordability & Security
This theme seeks to assess the extent to which the housing providers provides long-term homes that are genuinely affordable to those on low incomes.
1. Homes and bed spaces in management
Most of the homes and bed spaces in management are for social and affordable rent. At 31 March 2021, we had 32,729 homes across 50 local authorities of which 73% were for social and affordable rent.
2. Homes under development
The provision of affordable housing is at the centre of what we do. In the financial year 2020/2021, we completed 928 homes of which 817 homes (88%) were affordable housing for either rent or shared ownership. We also built 111 homes for open market sale through risk sharing joint ventures, the profits from which fed into the affordable development programme.
At 31 March 2021, we had 3,222 homes under development of which 84% were affordable for rent or shared ownership, and the remainder were for open market sale through our joint ventures.
We offer security of tenure to existing and prospective customers and we let most of our homes either with an assured tenancy or a starter tenancy. We carry out pre-allocation assessments where we look at any risks that might mean the tenancy fails including an affordability check. Working with our local authority partners we cap 85% of our affordable rents at the local housing allowance level.
We aim to be responsive and flexible to the wide range of housing needs ensuring we make the best use of our homes by letting them as quickly as possible. When we benchmark ourselves against other housing associations, we perform in the top quartile. In areas where demand is low or we have homes that are difficult to let, we work with our local authority partners and let these where possible on temporary tenancies to help them meet their obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act.
We have nominations agreements in place with all Local Authorities in which we operate, which guarantee those on the housing register access to our available homes helping them meet their statutory housing duties. The housing registers use a points or band-based system to identify specific housing need and prioritise applicants.
Our other social themes are below:
This theme seeks to assess how effective the housing provider is at meeting its legal responsibilities to protect residents and keep buildings safe.
The vision of our Asset Management Strategy is to provide safe, well maintained homes supported by long-term investment in communities where people choose to live. Our beyond compliance approach to health and safety and fire safety, saw us invest £9.8m in these areas in 2020/2021.
1. Fire Safety
At 31 March 2021, our Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) compliance for Aster was at 100% on a target of 100%, based on a total of 557 FRAs carried out within the year (12 carried out by external party). The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions meant we had to postpone all non-essential works including FRAs, but we returned to a normal programme of safety inspections and FRA compliance as soon as we were able. When compared to target, we achieved 100% for the high priority FRAs at 31 March 2021.
2. Gas servicing
The COVID-19 restrictions caused significant disruption in the first half of 2020/2021. Despite this we achieved 99.8% gas servicing compliance at 31 March 2021 against a target of 100%, based on a total of 20,955 gas services.
3. Electrical compliance
Despite the significant disruptions from COVID-19, electrical compliance for Aster as at 31 March 2021 was at 99.2%, based on a total of 5,629 electrical tests.
4. Decent homes standard
As at 31 March 2021, 265 properties were initially identified as requiring planned works, to ensure that they continued to meet the decent homes standard. Due to the delays to programmed works as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, we were unable to complete the necessary planned works to ensure these properties remained decent, as defined by the standard. Throughout the first quarter of 2021/2022 we worked hard to fully appraise those properties and have been able to discount a significant number as not failing on condition, adjusting for this takes the total number of properties as at 31 March 2021 requiring planned works to 104.
This theme seeks to assess how effective the housing provider is at listening to and empowering customers.
One of our five principles in our strategic framework is Customer Voice, which looks to transform the way in which we engage, listen to and empower our customers. We are currently working with Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS), a national organisation dedicated to improving engagement standards, to review our service and develop a programme to evolve and improve. We have recently refreshed our Customer Voice Policy and Framework to reflect our commitment in this area, and to build on our already excellent approach.
We have a number of formal customer groups who we regularly engage with, as well as a substantial number of customers who we consult on policies or service changes. Our Customer and Community Network (CCN) is an integral part of our governance framework consisting of customers, executive and non-executive directors, with the responsibility for scrutinising and challenging our performance, how we deliver services to our customers, and onward recommendation of customer related policies and strategies. The customer voice is further integrated through our Customer Overview Group (COG) and the Customer Scrutiny Panel (CSP).
The COG is made up of a group of customers who review and approve customer facing policies and procedures and make recommendations on how services are best delivered for our customers.
Some of the recent work that COG have been involved in includes:
- Operational target setting for customer facing services
- Focussing on customer satisfaction survey data
- Reviewing operational performance
- Energy and Environmental Sustainability Strategy work.
The Customer Scrutiny Panel provides a thorough and customer focussed assessment of our services and processes.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we engage with customers; it has provided opportunities to be more agile and improve value for money by maximising digital and virtual methods of communication and consultation. In 2020/2021, we received feedback from over 3,750 customers, compared to around 1,250 in 2019/2020, and around 800 in 2018/2019.
Regular customer surveys are undertaken to measure and understand our customer’s perception of our organisation, allowing a consistent and comparable approach of customer satisfaction across the business and with other housing associations. Our performance for the year to 31 March 2021 for General Needs (GN) and Housing for Older People (HOP) demonstrates excellent customer satisfaction.
For more detail about resident voice download our full ESG report
This theme seeks to assess the effectiveness of the initiatives that the housing provider runs
to support individual customers.
Purpose - To invest in communities, and in their future.
Mission - To enable better lives through our impact programmes and innovative approach to tackling social challenges.
The Aster Foundation was created by Aster Group in response to government welfare policy changes in 2016 and increasing inequalities across the UK. Aster Communities was also set up as a way to highlight the additional work carried out by the Group to create social impact in the places which needed it the most. The Foundation operated as a department within Aster for nearly three years and within this time positively impacted thousands of people. Our plans to become a charitable entity in 2021, allows us to amplify our impact further, enabling the better lives of at least 40,000 people by 2030.
The Aster Foundation supports our vision of ‘everyone has a home’ by creating services which enable people to sustain those homes when life challenges get in the way, while also addressing the root of the challenges through inc. our social incubator.
The Aster Foundation operates across the areas of Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire and London, although will work with authentic talent across the UK who wish to create a positive impact across our communities.
For more detail about resident support download our full ESG report
Our social incubator, inc. is part of our drive to develop innovative and sustainable ways to drive change. A disruptor in the community investment space, inc. was set up to inspire, connect and enable social entrepreneurs to make a difference across our communities.
A unique ten-month programme offers a strong core syllabus covering all areas of business development, growth and ethics:
- An opt in syllabus which can be used to strengthen areas people wish to develop
- Mentoring and coaching to support personal growth
- Access to funding and investment
- Opportunities to gain insight from our customers
- Benefit from expert advice and support from our colleagues and partners
- An entrepreneurial community of peers to collaborate with and provide support.
Our 2020/2021 cohort consisted of ten social entrepreneurs whose enterprises are addressing a wide range of social challenges. The enterprises include:
- BMoneyWize – Improving the numeracy and financial skills of young people
- CD-UK – Producing affordable, 100% sustainable clothing made, sold and worn to help people rise out of homelessness
- My Pickle – An award-winning online platform equipping people to find the right help fast
- Padlock – An online platform connecting businesses with cybersecurity expertise, powered by the training of single parents in marketable cyber skills
- Places for Nature – Empowering communities in their efforts to improve places for nature in gardens and communal spaces
- Get into Data – A social enterprise creating data education opportunities for all
- Well Good – An AI-powered tool that will predict and prevent mental ill-health for individuals, not only for groups of people, within organisations
- Compassionate Cuppa – A mental health hug in a mug, where individuals are supported their way
- Well Cool Clothing – Making practical and dignified nightwear for hospital, hospice or care at home designed to empower and enable
- Raw Brick Innovations – Creating construction and building products which are made from non-recyclable waste and single use plastics.
During the 2020/2021 programme, these enterprises have supported 19 people into work, developed the skills of 174 people across our community, improved the mental wellness of 1,871 people, improved the independence of five people in later life and also developed people’s confidence around financial literacy and wellbeing.
'I would strongly recommend any social enterprise to consider this programme to accelerate their growth.'
‘Being on inc. has made a massive difference. I feel very much supported and my confidence is building. Really proud to be in this social space.'
Industry expert feedback on the final pitches of the cohort:
‘What a day! It’s been immensely rewarding and inspiring to spend the day with these amazing entrepreneurs. The passion that came through, the commitment, the visions and legacies that they are working on...The singing, crying, hugs and laughter. So real and so human. The inc. team have done an amazing job nurturing these businesses.’
Session leader feedback:
‘The sessions with each entrepreneur were inspiring. I like meeting people with a vision and determination to help people.’
‘It was a great opportunity to understand Aster's wider social value and to get a better understanding of the inc. cohort.’
This theme seeks to highlight the wider set of activities that housing providers undertake to create well-designed homes and places that meet local needs and provide great places for people to live and enjoy.
Our partnerships with Community Land Trusts (CLTs) help provide homes that are shaped by local people, for local people, putting community needs ahead of profit. 35 homes were built in 2020/2021 to support rural communities in partnership with CLTs. Two schemes are in contract with the first delivering within 2021/2022, with a further five schemes in the pipeline, of which, two are in-contract as of summer 2021.
Alongside our development activity we are investing in our existing homes and communities to sustain them into the future. We are working through an investment programme focussed on neighbourhood enhancements and investment to both meet the changing needs of our communities and our strategic asset management and maintenance objectives.
Our neighbourhood enhancement work is an ongoing programme of works which is delivering improvements such as remodelling and re-purposing of communal areas, improved facilities for waste management and recycling, modernisation of components such as door entry systems, landscaping and groundworks, and other works to improve the built environments in our communities. Each project is identified by local teams in consultation with our customers and focuses on their needs and priorities which in turn results in pride of place.
We take the time to consult widely with our customers on the issues that matter to them, whether on policies that are in place which affect all of our customers, right down to the very local issues affecting their home, estate or wider community.
In our sheltered and extra care schemes we are undertaking a refurbishment programme focussed on communal areas and facilities upgrades and modernisation. We have committed funding to this programme of works in consultation with our customers on the design principles, choices of décor, fabrics and furnishings to create vibrant, comfortable and welcoming spaces to meet the needs of those customers now and into the future.
We have a variety of community assets such as allotments, play areas and green spaces which we manage and maintain, supporting their use by community groups and individuals for their own use or community events.
We work closely with local authority partners to support them in the delivery of their respective housing strategies, and with other statutory agencies to deliver on our commitments to community safety in our estates. In partnership, we make effective interventions on issues of anti-social behaviour, tackling issues such drug related activity, domestic abuse and other issues which affect the safety and sustainability of our communities.
Our activities are underpinned by a robust governance frameworkNext