Jonathan Reeves is part of the groundworks team working across the Metropolitan Housing estate in Nottingham and Derby. Living in Derby with a young family he’s part of Dale Hayward’s and Shaun Thompson’s team with partner Jeremy Bult
Working on groundworks mean they’re involved in anything: Jonathan is repointing cement around the drain at the rear of a Metropolitan Thames Valley (MTVH) property in West Bridgford in September 2022 but he could just as easily be pointing or rebuilding walls, reinstating fences, posts, concreting, adjusting gates.
The Midlands and east Anglia head office of MTVH is based on the Beeston Business Park, Waterfront House, technology Drive, Beeston NG9 1LA. MTVH are responsible for 57000 homes and are part of the great drive to build 2000 new social housing properties to make good the current shortfall of affordable housing.
Jonathan and his team work across the East Midlands the majority of the work in Nottingham with some work in Derby which is where he lives with his young family.
The work he’s involved in is very varied because of the variety and age of the MTVH (Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing) properties across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire he’s even done limestone work.
Depending on accessibility of local materials limestone has traditionally been used as a loadbearing stone for masonry walls and columns; for stone roof ‘slates’ (thinner and lighter than sandstone varieties) you’ll see these in the Cotswolds and South Wales; where you see stucco on fifties built council houses it’s made from lime, sand and water and limewash is a whitewash based on ground chalk or kilned lime.
Jonathan is really interested in his job and the skills he needed to learn, he’s full of energy and enthusiasm. He told me he’d decided to join the navy as an escape from bad influences in his neighbourhood.
He left school at 16 really wanting to be an IT technician: although he quickly found a job with MCDonald’s (for the money and the social life) he was keen to do more: so after a year he moved to Pektron Group in Derby building circuit boards but because of what he now knows was undiagnosed dyslexia, see Lauren Laverne’s recent Desert island Discs where Repair Shop presenter and restorer Jay Blades talked about how hard it was to realise that he was bright enough to get a good degree because of undiagnosed dyslexia. Although we know now that Dyslexia is as much a strength as a disability Jonathan didn’t know that he had a neurological difference that could be supported and became frustrated and disengaged at work. He was made redundant, life became even more difficult when a good friend was killed in a hit and run accident. He found himself in a void with the wrong people and it became impossible to progress. With his family’s backing he decided to go into the Navy. It was in the navy that they screened him for dyslexia which meant for the first time he had support in a working environment. He was in a workplace that had the technical knowledge, resources to support him.
He realised that the navy understood that he was by no means unintelligent, that he had great potential. Jonathan spent four years in the navy training and working at the HMS Collingwood base on a warfare specialist apprenticeship in the Operations room/weapons training as part of the ship’s protection organisation boarding party. After four years, like a good friend who realised he was a family person, Jonathan had gained confidence, strength and skills but wanted to have a career outside the Navy.
He left and worked for a while as a contractor re-lagging insulation and cladding in London high rise after Grenfell. The money was great but by now he’d met his partner and they wanted a better work life balance. With young children he wanted a more local job, he applied to Metworks and was offered the job. He’s relishing the opportunity to transfer his skills and grow with the organisation.
It’s a new time: we need to harness and reward the effort, energy and enthusiasm of people who work in trades, get to know them, value them.
When we talk about regeneration, productivity and prosperity we need to look at work and the relationships around work in the neighbourhoods for the people with skills, talent, experience and find ever new ways to help them do better.
In social housing there’s been a debate over the last thirty years about how the cost of managing the estate can be efficiently supervised as well as how new kinds of social and health services can be implemented.
For Richard Blakeway the Housing Ombudsman, it’s the culture that housing associations and social landlords need to create and foster so that people can work together: neighbourhoods need to support the teams who work in them, the teams who work in neighbourhoods need to feel valued, motivated and that they’ve done something useful that’s really appreciated. A culture that encourages young, middle aged and older people to be part of the regeneration solution we all need: restoring the relationship between landlord and tenant in a new, participative, engaged way. Everyone is a contributor.
Social housing is the space where you can see all the problems as well as great social solutions. MTVH has a fifteen person team working across the East Midlands and East Anglia working one to one with people but leading them into a stronger neighbourhood, to training, education, skills and
Today in October 2022 we realise that social housing is the engine of regeneration at the micro level because it contains all the diversity of the modern world: people from all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of experience, all kind of hopes, dreams and aspirations.
Our challenge will be how to use the right tools in the right way at the right time to understand how we begin to undo the harms of the past (social exclusion from education, skills, jobs, networks, connection, labelling for three generations of UK people) to integrate social housing back into the modern economy across the lifespan. Understanding how in selling off council houses in the 1980’s 90’s and 00’s and not rebuilding at the needed rate we did far more harm than just not providing council houses for the next three generations.