Housing case study 3: Watmos

A group of tenants who took responsibility for managing their homes have developed a multi-million pound housing organisation. Watmos, the Walsall Alliance of Tenant Management Organisations, started in 2003...

A group of tenants who took responsibility for managing their homes have developed a multi-million pound housing organisation. Watmos, the Walsall Alliance of Tenant Management Organisations, started in 2003 when tenants in Walsall took control of their homes through eight Tenant Management Organisations (TMOs).

The TMOs took community ownership of 1,800 Walsall Council homes that year, and become their own landlord. Over 70% of these homes were in high-rise tower blocks, which were valued at zero using sector norm valuation methods.

By 2011, the Watmos balance sheet had grown to over £15m, enabling it to take ownership of a further 1,300 homes in Lambeth. Three London TMOs then joined Watmos, growing the group to 11.

Watmos now serves the 3,561 people in 3,049 homes, 2,700 of which it owns. Its objective is not only to manage housing, but also to build a real sense of community, where people look after one another on estates  that are attractive and offer a high level of security.

In an independent survey in 2012, it achieved satisfaction ratings amongst its Walsall tenants of 94%. In its London homes, which transferred to Watmos in 2012, satisfaction ratings rose from 54% to 72% in less than a year.

Now Watmos is focusing on growing its stock to enable more residents to take control of their estates, and to encourage tenants elsewhere in the country to do what it has done.

Nic Bliss, chair of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing, says: “The Watmos model challenges the traditional paternalistic landlord-tenant relationship. It shifts the power back to where it should always belong, giving the residents the right to direct, influence and shape the organisation. It gives them a voice that is heard and that enables and encourages them to take control of their housing, the services they receive and their environment.

“The Watmos story shows how ordinary people can take control over their lives and circumstances; how to develop the potential of ordinary people, not just in housing, but in any walk of life.”

Over the next ten years Watmos aims to work in partnership to create job opportunities for residents using they skills acquire through their voluntary work and to improve residents’ health and wellbeing. It also intends to share and quantify the neighbourhood improvement services provided by its volunteers.

FACTFILE: What are tenant management organisations?

TMOs enable council or housing association tenants and leaseholders to collectively take responsibility for managing their homes.

Resident members of the TMO create an independent legal body and usually elect a tenant-led management committee. The TMO can then enter into a management agreement with the landlord and be paid annual allowances to carry out the management duties delegated to them, such as repairs, allocations and lettings, tenancy management, cleaning, care-taking and rent collection.

Many TMOs are tenant management co-operatives using co-op rules. Others are not-for-profit companies. Small TMOs may rely mainly on volunteers but most employ staff such as housing managers, caretakers and repair workers.

  • For the full article on the growth of co-operation in the housing sector, and for further case studies, click here.
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