Branching out for ALMOs
A Midlands council set up an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO). Its objective was to manage, maintain and improve its council houses and estates. The organisation was non-profit making. It paid no dividends to any shareholders and was 100% owned and controlled by the council.
We were commissioned by the ALMO to identify business development opportunities amongst their current customers and the general public.
- To establish the current market position of this ALMO
- To examine traditional perceptions of council housing
- To examine the potential opportunities if a wider range of services were offered to existing customers
- To examine the potential opportunities if existing or new services were offered to home owners or tenants with a private or social landlord
We conducted a programme of research over six months.
We undertook a desk research review of existing information held by the organisation. This helped to ensure that key areas of interest were covered. It also prevented unnecessary duplication of existing information.
Five focus groups were held with current tenants. One discussion was held amongst tenants of each of four local offices. We compared satisfaction levels and perceived importance of services by area within the city. A separate discussion was held amongst Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) tenants. This checked whether their attitudes and requirements differed in any way from those of other tenants.
We held a series of seven face-to-face depth interviews. These explored possible partnerships for the ALMO with social and private landlords and with the local University. A further interview was conducted with a representative of the Council. We did this to establish their reaction to different ways in which the ALMO’s services might be developed.
Face-to-face structured interviews
Structured interviews were held with 300 existing tenants and 100 leaseholder/right-to-buy tenants. We gauged their perceptions of the organisation, the likely level of interest if new services were offered and what price would be acceptable.
200 home owners were also interviewed. In this set of structured interviews, we checked their likely reaction if offered repair, maintenance and other services, either under the name of the ALMO itself or as a private property management company.
In addition, we talked to 50 University students to check their views on their current accommodation. Did they have any requirements which were not being met? What was their attitude to the concept of living in accommodation provided by the ALMO?
Chairing a key meeting
Finally, we were asked to chair a meeting between representatives of the ALMO and local Housing Providers. The aim was to identify partnership opportunities.
The other Housing Providers identified several ways in which they would be interested to work in partnership with the ALMO.
The main findings of our market research were summarised in a presentation. There was also a detailed report showing estimates of the likely number of users which each new service might generate. We were careful to differentiate between existing tenants and general residents. We also estimated the revenue that could be generated by each potential new service and the attitudes and profiles of all the key groups.
This resulted in the ALMO presenting proposals to the Council on several promising extensions to their services.