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Dragon Interview: Nick Jubert – Effingham Housing Association

For the first time a little known local charity has opened its doors to the outside world. Effingham Housing Association (EHA) lifts the lid on its unsung successes in meeting local housing needs. Association chairman Nick Jubert, who is also the managing director of a successful local clothing firm, speaks to Guildford Dragon reporter Chris Dick.

Nick Jubert

Tell us a little about yourself, your family and how you came to live in Effingham?

Ruth and I decided to move to Effingham in 1996 to be near my office in Leatherhead and within easy reach of our children’s schools in Guildford.

My family goes back four generations in the textile trade. In fact, with my daughter Carolyn joining the firm as Finance Director in 2012 that makes five generations! I have been in textiles all my working life, previously managing five of our family factories in the UK until 1989 and then running Dennys, the catering clothing business.

I bought Dennys in 2012 from the rest of the family and still run it to this day. The business started in about 1840 in Soho and now has a Royal Warrant and sells its brands around the world.

How did the housing association come about?

Barnes Wallis

The charity was started in 1966 by a group of residents that included the then chairman of Effingham Parish Council, Sir Barnes Wallace. [Barnes Wallis is better known for inventing the bouncing bomb used by the Royal Air Force in Operation Chastise (the “Dambusters” raid) to attack the dams of the Ruhr Valley during World War II.]

He lived in Beech Avenue, Effingham and is buried in St Lawrence’s Church.

What does the Effingham Housing Association do?

We manage 16 properties in Effingham for people of retirement age who have a connection to the village. We can accommodate up to 24 residents.

We have an office in our Alms Houses in Crossways, where we meet during the year, and share with Brian Hendry who is a local architect. But the main work is constant email traffic between the unpaid officials who run the association. Every one of us has a job which is required to keep the association running smoothly.

We are a charity but operate as a Friendly Society, which keeps things simple.

The committee meets five times a year in the almshouses in Crossways.

What was the first property you brought?

In 1966 the newly-formed association bought The Lodge in Crossways which is in the centre of the village. The committee wanted to protect the character of the village and The Lodge needed to be saved from demolition. This was at a time when the council wanted to take down some buildings to widen the road.

The same was then done for the Alms Houses next door in Crossways as they were also under threat of demolition. Since then we have always bought property in the centre of the village, within walking distance of the shops.

The Lodge in Crossways saved from demolition.

What sets the EHA apart from other housing associations?

Right from the start, the aim of the association is to offer accommodation to residents who want to stay in the village, have children or other relatives here or want to downsize. We ask that there is a connection with Effingham, from living in the village or having relations here, and every one of our residents must have a local sponsor whom we can call on if there is a problem. We do not have any wardens so each resident must be able to look after themselves.

We were invited to take on the affordable housing development in Barnes Wallis Close, Browns Lane when it was built, but that would have changed us into a much bigger concern that the committee did not want. They say, “If you want something doing, ask a busy person”, but as working people who give their time voluntarily to the EHA, it would have not been feasible.

We are always interested in buying further properties in the village centre and keep our eyes open for opportunities.

What sort of problems have you had to deal with?

The association started with very little money and all property was bought with mortgages which became very testing in the high inflation years of the 1970s – nearly making the association bankrupt.

We take very seriously our guardianship of the landmark properties we manage in the centre of the village and are proud to have gradually brought them back to their original state while modernising them to current living standards. This includes fitting suitable kitchens and bathrooms.

Due to the age of the properties, maintenance is a constant job which our committee spend much of their time on. During my chairmanship we have replaced all electrics and heating along with installing modern double glazing.

Do you have a waiting list and advertise your existence?

Yes, we have a waiting list but actually there is very little turnover, as our residents seem to live happily with us for a long time. As a consequence, we don’t advertise much apart from in the local parish magazine. We are not on the Guildford, Dorking or Leatherhead lists for accommodation, as we would be stepping outside our remit. And we do not have the resources to offer assisted rentals.

Rose Cottage

Tell me a bit about your committee.

The association is one of the quieter committees in the village. There are eight unpaid members. It is apolitical and every committee member has a task, which they are responsible for such as rents officer, maintenance, gardens, finance, tenant liaison, waiting list and company secretary.

Rose Cottage and Crossways have particularly large and beautiful garden which we encourage the residents to get involved with. We do pay a gardener to keep everything tidy but many of our residents enjoy gardening and planting and making the gardens into a pleasant place to sit and enjoy.

Is your association unique?

There are housing associations all over the country but they do vary in the way they operate. We do not claim to be unique in this area as there are others locally.

Can you explain a little about your finances – what do you do with the profits?

We have paid off all our loans and run at a small surplus. Our surplus is used to upgrade the kitchens, bathrooms and, for instance, putting in stair lifts where needed.

We intend to be cheaper than commercial rentals remembering that we also cover maintenance and gardening.

The committee is just in the process of launching a scheme to help our tenants with a percentage of their electricity costs. We cannot guarantee what that percentage will be just yet but hope to make a 50% contribution.

Is there an age limit before I can become one of your residents?

It is not clearly defined but loosely termed as “retirement age”. We do not means test our prospective tenants but they must have that link with Effingham. It is a village charity for the good of the village.

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One Response to Dragon Interview: Nick Jubert – Effingham Housing Association

  1. Liz Hogger Reply

    October 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Effingham Housing Association is a wonderful example of the community spirit of our village. The volunteer trustees do a great job, enabling many older Effingham residents to continue to live in the village at an affordable rent level. Added to that, the Housing Association has assured the conservation of valued local buildings such as the Alms Houses on Crossways which date from 1724.

    Well done to Nick and all his committee. I have no doubt that Sir Barnes Wallis would be delighted that the housing association continues to meet the housing needs of village residents more than 50 years since it was founded.

    Liz Hogger is the Lib Dem borough councillor for Effingham

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