New UK member: MATRIX Housing Partnership

26 June 2024

Our community is expanding in the UK. We are pleased to welcome MATRIX Housing Partnership, which has rejoined as a Eurhonet member. We spoke to Simon Wilson, Chief Executive at The Pioneer Group and representative of MATRIX to find out more about the partnership, his role, and the current challenges for social housing providers in the UK.

Simon Wilson

CEO, Pioneer Group – member of MATRIX Housing Partnership

“My day job is Chief Executive at The Pioneer Group. As a housing association, we manage around 2,500 homes with 96% of those in a single neighbourhood on the outskirts of England’s second largest city: Birmingham. We consider ourselves very much an anchor organisation. We do a lot more than core housing services with a big focus on placemaking through a range of community activities and people-focused services.

I am also the nominated representation of MATRIX Housing Partnership, which is a partnership of six social landlords operating across the midlands and southeast of England. We have come together to drive new social housing supply through a development consortia and strategic partnership with the UK Government body that helps fund new affordable and social housing here in the UK.

MATRIX partners manage nearly 100,000 homes and we are busy delivering a development programme of upwards of 4,300 new homes since 2018. The partnership has also focused on the net zero agenda and is delivering a range of social housing decarbonisation initiatives.”

Modern brick buildings
Attractive residential buildings

Photos: The Pioneer Group

“I got my first job in social housing nearly 27 years ago as a housing officer. I had been working for an organisation that no longer exists called British Coal, managing their extensive land and property portfolio. But the miners’ strike and subsequent decision to move away from coal made by Margaret Thatcher meant I was busy selling the assets and along with them my job was going to disappear.

I enjoyed the property management role and social housing played into my values around social justice. Little did I know then that I would be starting a path that would lead to such an incredibly rewarding career.”

“At its heart, social housing is about creating opportunities for people to thrive by having a secure, safe, well-maintained home from which to build their lives. It’s always been about enhancing life chances and over the last 10 years at Pioneer, it’s been about placemaking and creating added value to the core services any decent landlord should offer.”

“The most challenging aspect is trying to cover the breadth and depth of the services we offer as a landlord. As a Chief Executive, you have huge responsibility, and you need a great team around you.

Since the tragedy of the Grenfell fire, there are quite rightly more expectations on us around building safety, fire safety, and how we listen to and act on what really matters to our tenants. Combining this with an incredibly tough financial operating environment, expectations about climate change, and helping tenants through the cost of living crisis means it feels like a tough gig being a social landlord right now. That said, I love my job!”

“Seeing day in day out the positive difference we make in people’s lives keeps me focused and motivated.”

Office building
Person wearing hi vis jacket reading 'Building better lives'

Photos: Left – The Pioneer Group, Right – GreenSquare Accord

“At Pioneer, we are just entering a strategic review to set out our new corporate plan from 2025. I predict this will have a big focus on improving the customer service offer and shaping services through listening to our customers and improving data quality and our IT/digital offer.

This is alongside trying to square the circle of being asked to do more with less and getting the right balance between looking after and decarbonising existing homes and contributing to the desperately needed supply of new homes.

These challenges are shared with my colleagues across the MATRIX Housing Partnership.”

“We had been receiving insight about dissatisfaction with old draughty windows through tenants’ surveys and complaints. Taking this feedback on board, we decided to bring forward and compress the delivery of a new windows programme. This will help keep tenants happy, reduce their energy costs amid an energy crisis and contribute to our net zero journey.”

“Some landlords had lost touch with their main stakeholders: their tenants. There is a real journey we need to go on to reconnect, be influenced and shape our offer around what our tenants tell us.

We have not had long-term certainty on income from rents (rents are set by central government here in the UK) and this has impacted on investment plans just at a time when we are all keen to build more homes and invest in making our existing homes more environmentally friendly.”

Group of people in hi vis jackets
Four people in hi vis jackets and one with a spade.

Photos: GreenSquare Accord

“MATRIX have been members of Eurhonet before for many years. After a short break, we are pleased to be back to take advantage of the sharing of best and emerging practice and all the added benefits of membership.

MATRIX is partnership of organisations with very different sizes, geographies and settings (inner city and rural) and that brings a wealth of insights and opportunities to share and learn from each other’s varied experiences.

We are looking forward to sharing with Eurhonet members across the range of topic areas as well as helping colleagues’ personal and professional development through networking and learning.”

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