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Peabody IT director building home improvements

Mark Chillingworth | July 30, 2013
One thing is clear about Martin Carpenter: his passion for the sector he operates within.

One thing is clear about Martin Carpenter: his passion for the sector he operates within. As IT director for the famed and historic housing association Peabody, Carpenter always talks animatedly about the challenges his organisation and its sector faces and how technology is key to unlocking the potential of both the Peabody organisation and its tenants.

Before we sit down and talk, Carpenter and the organisation's official historian take us on a tour of its residencies close to the office. It is obvious during the tour that this is an organisation with both a clear mission statement and a vision for how to achieve it, and that its IT leader is engaged in all aspects of the organisation and dedicated to helping it achieve its outcomes.

Peabody was founded back in 1862 by George Peabody, a banker who believed that housing was the way to tackle poverty in his adopted home of London. Today the organisation, headquartered a stone's throw from Waterloo station, has over 20,000 homes which house 50,000 Londoners and has a mission to "Make London a city of opportunity for all by ensuring as many people as possible have a good home, a real sense of purpose and a strong feeling of belonging".

"The surprising thing is how big a business social housing is in the UK economy — it's 15% of UK households," Carpenter explains.

And in this age of austerity it is good business. Peabody had a group turnover of £124 million as of March 2012 with a surplus of £20 million, and Carpenter says risk-averse financial services providers are getting involved in lending to the sector as it is both well run and low-risk.

Peabody has recently completed a merger with Gallions Housing Association and as in so many sectors, market consolidation is a growing trend.

"We may do other mergers. They are odd, as no money changes hands: they are almost gentlemen's agreements as the organisations are looking for good stewards of their properties and customers," Carpenter says. Following the Gallions Housing Association merger Peabody will invest £200 million into the Thamesmead housing area in South East London, made famous as the modernist location for Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange.

Thamesmead was built in the late 1960s, but many Peabody properties are much older, as are the association's values. "We don't build cheap, we build to last and that is part of the DNA," Carpenter says of the Peabody ethos.

"Getting people back into work and having social and economic opportunities is an important part of the organisation.

"It makes good business sense: if you can help people they can be better residents and the will take more pride in their environment, so they will make better tenants and then need less investment from us. So people in work is a corporate KPI," Carpenter states.


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