Nationwide: Living on your side - Your home (Community citizenship)
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Across the country there is a serious problem with home ownership, many people are not able to afford to purchase their own home and therefore have no choice but to rent. Through our work in the private rented sector we became aware that there were many families renting accommodation on a 6 month contract so were at risk of being asked to move out at short notice. In addition, many people reported issues with the quality of their rented accommodation and issues with letting agents.
Nationwide is a significant player in the housing market, both through mortgages and buy-to-let. Housing plays such an important role in people’s lives we felt it was important to play an active role in supporting people into their own homes where we could, and also support the stability of those who needed to rent.
In November 2012 Nationwide launched ‘Living on your side’ a 5 year strategy which aimed to support our members in four distinct areas – Your Home, Your Money, Your Community and Your Society.
‘Your Home’ is the strand which aims to address housing issues as outlined above. We made a public commitment to help 750,000 people into a home of their own, including improving the quality of privately rented accommodation. We ensured that senior leaders in our mortgage and buy-to-let businesses were involved with the running of the programme and we formed a strategic partnership with Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.
We spent a lot time talking to Shelter: over 1 million people approach Shelter for advice each year, so they are the leading experts on housing in Britain. They advise both people in housing need and professionals in the housing sector. Straight away a number of issues stood out to us, for example our buy to let contracts had a clause preventing landlords from renting their property out to someone for more than 6 months. As a progressive lender we worked with our business stakeholders in Nationwide and were able to remove the clause, since then other lenders have followed our lead.
We began to recognise that there were organisations which existed to represent the rights of landlords, but no national body focussed solely represent tenants. So through the Nationwide Foundation we provided a grant to set up a charity, the ‘National Private Tenants Association’. It’s the first of its kind, which is astonishing when you consider the number of private tenants across the country. It’s in the very early stages of being formed but we have helped establish a board of trustees and its first Director and have a long term goal for it to become self-funding.
We have also started working with those who were looking to get buy-to-let mortgages from Nationwide, to raise awareness of good practise from private landlords. We are starting to make offers within the contracts of buy-to-let members – for example we are partnering with British Gas to offer free gas safety checks to all landlords.
First we had to identify a charity partner that would be suitable for us to work with, it’s important to ensure that the partner complements the skills and experience we have as a business, and vice versa. Once we had identified Shelter as our partner, the main role we played as a Corporate Citizenship team was facilitating meetings and the relationship between Shelter and a variety of business leaders. We had to identify which teams we would need to work with to be able to, to ensure the project was a success and internally staff were on board with our vision.
We were also responsible for communicating the scheme to both employees and members through various communication channels which we already have set up.
It’s a 5 year project which was only launched in November 2012, so it’s still early days but so far we are well on track, and 22% ahead of target for year one. We are keen to look at measuring social impact of the scheme, so will build in further monitoring and evaluation as the scheme develops.
We’ve learned that engaging with NGO’s and being open to their knowledge and advice is really important. In this case Shelter have been invaluable in ensuring the scheme is successful, it’s also good from a reputational perspective to be open to learning from other organisations and to take advice from those that are experts in areas where we may be lacking in knowledge.
When we began the project initially we were being more reactive as we didn’t really know how things were going to pan out. As challenges came up we would initiate dialogue between Shelter and Nationwide business leaders and then be proactive in addressing them. I think going forwards we are in a better position to be able to foresee challenges and consider how we might address them.
Nationwide Building Society is a British mutual financial institution and the largest building society in the UK. It’s headquarters are based in Swindon.