Creating opportunities, while changing lives and promoting a positive open cultural tolerance and cohesion across the diverse community within Liverpool is the mission of Pine Court Housing Association.
The driving force behind this housing association is David Brown, Director of Operations, who has been actively involved in minority ethnic communities over the past 35 years in his various roles within the social housing sector.
Pine Court was established in 1986 to accommodate the Chinese and Southeast Asian communities in social housing. At the time many were living in poor private rented properties, in overcrowded family homes or in accommodation linked to their occupation.
In the middle eighties government funding was made available via the then Housing Corporation to set up a minority ethnic social housing sector. During that time 40 housing associations dedicated to minority ethnic communities were formed, of which Pine Court was one of them.
Today the association owns and manages 545 homes within the Liverpool City Region, offering social and affordable rent, independent living scheme catering primarily to older people within the Chinese community andhas recently introduced rent to buy properties.
“The Chinese community in Liverpool is the oldest in Europe,” states David, “and for years the Chinese community here were not able to access the same quality of services as other residents in the city.
“Our small bilingual team offers customers a personal touch when dealing with this community and if there are any issues, we can then either signpost them or see if we can assist them in solving the problem.
“We also do a lot of advocacy work and our bilingual colleagues will even phone the water, gas, or electric utilities on their behalf if customers are struggling to converse with the provider.”
Pine Court has a great track record of ensuring new residents are integrated into the city catering for minority ethnic communities.
“We are also only one of the two registered social housing providers within the Liverpool City Region catering for diverse communities.
“What makes us unique is because we are a smaller association, we can make decisions quickly to the benefit of our customers. One of the reasons we are able to achieve our objectives quickly is because of our partnership work with organisations that share our vision of a better future.”
Prior to 2011 Pine Court outsourced all its corporate services and property maintenance functions.
“At that time, we were not able to control customer satisfaction, quality of work or cost and it was a huge expense that we felt was not beneficial to our customers. This all changed when we became part of The Sovini Group in 2011. They enabled us to tap into their corporate and commercial services, so we could ensure our customers are getting real value for money and quality services.”
Within The Sovini Group is Sovini Property Services, a specialist maintenance provider offering a single contractor approach for all repairs, maintenance, estate management and compliance needs. Sovini Construction works across all general building trades and specialises in the different aspects of construction, and Sovini Trade Supplies provide bespoke managed stores and capital investment services to several key social housing clients along with a full merchant offer to support newbuild and the wider construction industry. In addition, the Group offers asbestos removal, scaffolding services and waste management through partners Amianto Services, Teal Scaffold and Sovini Waste Solutions.
“Through these entities we are able to control costs and the quality of work provided to our customers which is beneficial to everyone.”
David is also a member of The Sovini Group’s executive management team, which gives him the opportunity of influencing the strategic overview of the Group.
Though Liverpool is a diverse community there are still cultural issues impacting communities in the city and Pine Court has and is working hard in educating residents and creating awareness across its partnerships.
“Hate crimeis still an issue which really came to the fore during, and even after the Covid pandemic when the Chinese community would have abuse hurled at them blaming them for the pandemic.
“Some of our customers were shocked, especially those who were born and bred in Liverpool and had never even lived in China.
“How we overcome this is working with partner associations and the police to increase the knowledge of what a hate crime is through education.
“We also created more awareness of the Chinese community within the region through cultural activities and celebrations to promote their history, dance, culture, and food – especially in the China Town district of Liverpool. Another key element in this process is involving other organisations in the various celebrations like the Lunar New Year and other key cultural events.
“This is a great way of increasing tolerance among residents and goes a long way to improving the positive impact residents can make within their community.”
At the same time the association is also growing and expanding its portfolio of properties. It currently owns 520 socially rented properties and recently acquired an additional 25 properties available via a Rent to Buy scheme.
“This will enable residents to take the first step onto the property ladder, and we are really excited about this scheme, as this is a step in a new direction for both the association and our customers.”
David is extremely optimistic about the future of Pine Court.
“We are committed to creating a better future for our customers, at the same time growing our portfolio to get more residents into quality homes.
“We are also known as a high performing organisation and we are optimistic we can maintain this standard in the foreseeable future, so we can continue in our mission of creating opportunities for our customers to change their lives with Pine Court.”