South Devon Rural Housing Association is proposing a merger with Places for People and publicly announced its plans on 20 December 2023 with a news release and an information pack sent to tenants, shareholders and other stakeholders.

The pack included a special edition of SDR’s newsletter, a questionnaire and a reply paid envelope to send back any comments and questions. The newsletter contained a lot of information about Places for People, including two pages of answers to some likely questions people may have.
There is now a six-week consultation period where SDR is using various methods to gather feedback from tenants on how they view the merger proposal and whether they have any questions or concerns. One way is to fill in our survey form online – click

We’re aware that starting this consultation around Christmas means people will have other things on their minds over the festive break. But there will be plenty of time in the New Year to read about the plans, ask questions and express views. The survey closing date is 7 February 2024.
Meanwhile, below is a set of Frequently Asked Questions addressing some common themes and questions associated with such mergers. This is intended to be a helpful resource both during the Christmas break, when SDR offices are closed, and afterward, serving as a reference to answer any initial questions about the implications of the merger.


Why did SDR announce the merger proposal only a few days before the Christmas holiday?

It is common practice with any change in business structures for the process to be formalised in time for the start of the next financial year – or by 31st March.

For the merger to be officially completed by the end of March 2024, various critical steps must be taken. A key step is the consultation process, giving tenants, stakeholders and shareholders an opportunity to provide their views on the proposal.

This consultation must be concluded by early February to incorporate feedback and enable both parties to manage the complex aspects of the merger if it were to proceed. Considering the timeline, announcing the merger on December 20th provides a little over seven weeks for consultation, reduced to six weeks when excluding the 10-day Christmas and New Year break.

Could I lose my home as a result of this merger?

No. You have legal rights and protection as a social housing tenant, as set out by the Social Housing Regulator. These rights remain unaffected by this merger, so please be assured that you will not lose your home as a result of the merger.

Would this merger affect my Tenancy Agreement?

Your tenancy agreement with SDR would remain the same. The tenancy right you enjoy would not be affected by the merger. Places for People, like SDR, are a regulated social housing provider, so they have to adhere to the same rules.

Most of our residents are Assured Tenants. Under these tenancy agreements, you have a lifetime legal right to stay in your home – providing you continue to meet the conditions of your tenancy.

Some exemptions will continue to apply as they do now. Some tenancy agreements are for a fixed period of time e.g. 12 months, or other periods stated on the Tenancy Agreement. Changes to fixed-term tenancies cannot legally be made as a result of any merger.

Will my rent and service charges increase?

Your rents will remain at their current levels and will only go up once a year in line with Government regulations or what is set out in your tenancy agreement. These rules apply to both SDR and Places for People.

Service charges are also reviewed on a yearly basis. Your service charge covers the direct cost of services we provide to your home and/or estate. You will continue to receive a breakdown of these costs with your rent increase notification as you do now.

Would the merger affect my Welfare Benefits or Entitlements?

Your Welfare Benefits and Entitlements would not be affected by the merger. They would only change if your own personal circumstances change.

What is SDRHA committing to me and my tenancy if this merger goes ahead?

We will continue to provide housing and repairs services to SDR residents. These services should improve as a result of increased resourcing that would result from the merger.

We will continue to invest in the safety, warmth and security of your homes. SDRHA customers would continue to have a voice and be heard at local, regional and national level.

What would happen to SDR’s main offices in Totnes?

We would continue to maintain an office presence in the area. Tenants would benefit from a continuing local base, backed by central teams.

Will there be staff changes? 

In the short term, there will be no change for SDR employees. Both the Board and Senior Team will remain in place and, with the support of the Places for People group, will continue to have oversight of our finances and governance. This means that you will still deal with the same people as you do now. As the merger progresses, there will a gradual integration of SDR functions within the larger organisation – things like Human Resources, Finance and Information Technology for example.

Will the merger with a large organisation mean that we lose local accountability?

Our services will continue to be delivered in the same way and we will continue to listen to your views and reflect these in our future plans. We chose Places for People as a potential merger partner, in part, because they are committed to more locally responsive and accountable services. SDRHA customers will continue to have a voice on local matters as well as a voice regionally and nationally.

You can read more about customer engagement by clicking on Places for People’s Customer Annual Report at: Customer Annual Report 2023 - Places for People

How will services be delivered?

All services like repairs reporting, paying rent and service charges or raising issues with our customer services team or Housing Team will continue to be delivered by existing staff from existing offices.

Will I have the right to buy my home?

‘Right to Buy’ does not apply to the vast majority of housing association homes. There is a ‘right to acquire’ for homes built after 1989 which offers a discount on the market value. For more information please contact

Will I be able to move into a Places for People home?

There may be a possibility in the future, but at this stage moving home options will be the same as they are now. If you want to find a new home you can look for a mutual exchange - which means you swap homes with another tenant. This can be anywhere in the UK through the Home Swapper service and requires landlord permission.

SDR does not hold its own waiting list or housing register. We work across several local authority areas, using choice based lettings system (Devon Home Choice) and existing residents can apply to be considered for an alternative property via Devon Home Choice.

Will SDR still deliver the Repairs Service?

We will continue to oversee repairs and will work with our existing suppliers and contractors where we already have a contract in place. 

What will happen to my home and security in the long term?

Your security is protected by your tenancy or lease agreement and by the fact that Places for People is regulated by the Social Housing Regulator and so must meet regulatory standards, which include the quality of homes and services.


What is a merger?

A merger happens when two or more organisations join together to create one new organisation, or when one smaller organisation joins a larger one as a subsidiary company within a Group. If an organisation joins as a subsidiary (as is the case for SDR) it continues to operate as a company, and can also access resources provided by the group (e.g. finance, people, technology etc.).

Why is SDR proposing to merge with a larger housing provider?

Since 1958, SDR’s single purpose has been to provide safe, affordable homes and quality services to our residents. Community is at the heart of everything.

We have managed to move with the times and to grow our organisation and expand our property portfolio steadily, despite the many challenges we have met along the way.

We have invested significantly in the safety of our existing homes, built new ones, and provided places that people over 55 and those with learning or mobility difficulties can call home.

We have long since recognised how partnership working can make it easier for us to provide the affordable homes and living space that people in this region desperately need – now more than ever. A number of recent changes in wider society, along with new Government policies, are challenging us to develop and invest even more in our future.

The Grenfell fire (2017) has brought much-needed focus for reform in building safety and a new code of governance for housing associations. A new Government framework and Tenancy Standard will set out and reinforce how landlords must listen and be equipped to take action as a result of feedback from residents.

The population is ageing rapidly, and by 2038 1 in 4 people in the UK will be over 65. It’s vital that housing associations such as SDR are ready to respond with homes, services and technology to support a wide range of resident needs.
While we remain financially stable, we face funding challenges like so many individuals, families and organisations in the UK. We’re also living through a global climate crisis where all homes need to be net carbon neutral by 2050. Meeting these challenges will have considerable financial impacts on smaller housing associations such as SDR.

Against this background, we believe we will become stronger by joining with a larger organisation and so will be more able to meet these new challenges.


Why have you chosen Places for People as a potential merger partner?

Once SDR’s Board decided to look into the idea of a merger, a number of potential partners were considered and a short list prepared. We engaged with each of these and sought which one offered the best match in terms of sharing our business ethos and enabling SDR to continue its work in the region.

As this exercise progressed, it became clear that Places for People (PfP) ticked each of our boxes on a corporate level and that their management team were people we could happily work with.

What is ‘in it’ for Places for People?

Places for People owns and manages 140,000 homes across England and Scotland. And while they build a lot of houses in the South West, they have a limited presence in terms of their affordable Communities. Places for People exists to be the UK’s leading social enterprise and to be a force for good. They want to change lives by creating and supporting thriving communities. They believe that SDR is an organisation they can add value to, and SDR’s customers are customers they can support.

What do PfP offer that makes them a good partnership choice?

First, PfP puts Community at the heart of everything – just like we do. As a much larger organisation with far greater resources at its disposal, PfP offers all the advantages brought by economies of scale, but especially access to funding streams that would support vital expansion in the South West.

This partnership would also offer both immediate and longer-term enhancements to the service that SDR’s customers receive – for example a contact centre with 24/7 accessibility.

Benefits would also include access to all services PfP customers receive and, more importantly, new customer service initiatives coming soon.
Recent examples are the inclusion of Home MOTs with the annual gas service, to check for issues relating to damp and mould, overcrowding, and safeguarding.

Can you name some of the enhancements that PfP brings to the table?

Access to a wide range of financial support for customers including a money and home energy advice service, a Cost of Living Fund providing rent relief, a furniture and white goods project, vouchers for essentials like food and fuel and support for food banks and pantries.
Community Funding for local customer led projects to meet specific local needs.
Wellbeing, digital inclusion and employment projects.

Local customer engagement, Regional Customer Forums and a National Customer Group, supported by an expert team.
Customers are supported by local teams in a regional structure, ensuring colleagues have local knowledge and visibility and can form long and effective connections with customers and communities.

Regional teams are supported by central teams: Finance, Risk, Health and Safety, Human Resources, Technology, Communications, Legal and Places Impact.

Other support teams in Communities include the Early Tenancy Support project, a Sustaining Tenancies and Risk support team. And also dedicated complaints management with the central Customer Focus team.

Responsive Property Management and Maintenance with a commitment to invest more in improving existing customers’ homes.
Dedicated anti-social behaviour services and support, including mediation.

How would Places for People make a difference to SDR’s prospects?
PfP has an impressive new homes development programme in the pipeline, with a good number located in the South West of England, the region where SDR is keen to increase the number of new homes for customers.

The current list includes:

IKEA Way, Exeter, Devon
Number of new homes = 184
Start on site = March 2023

Exmouth Junction, Exeter, Devon
Number of new homes = 165
Start on site = March 2023

Winkleigh, Devon
Section 106 Agreement with Allison Homes
Number of new homes = 17
Start on site = December 2022

North Tawton, Devon
Section 106 Agreement with Allison Homes
Number of new homes = 26
Start on site = January 2023

In the wider South West, Places for People have an interest in these other housing developments:
Bridgwater - 51 homes at a site called “The Foundry”; started on site March 2023 by Persimmon Homes.

Truro - Higher Newham Farm starting on site January 2024; 121 homes of affordable rent and SO, built by Vistry and within their scheme for a further 121 market sale units. 

Yate, Gloucestershire - 40 affordable rented homes, due for occupation in March 24. 
A key objective of the partnership would be to further grow the number of affordable homes in our area through development. SDR would provide the presence and regional capability to support this growth for the benefit of the community we serve.

How will any extra investment forthcoming from Places for People be used?

The extra financial confidence we will gain from the merger will allow us to make faster progress with planned improvements to our existing homes. We will be discussing our own new homes prospects with Places for People, who also have their own plans for expanding the housing offering in our catchment area. Once we have greater clarity about future plans, we will share this with residents.

Why did SDR choose Places for People? What was the process?

The Board wanted to secure significant additional investment in residents’ homes, support the continued building of new affordable homes in our local communities and achieve financial security for the long term, and to join an organisation which reflected SDR’s long-held values and ambitions. After considering a number of possible partners, we produced a short list and this was finally whittled down to Places for People as ticking all our boxes and being a good mutual match.

What is ‘in it’ for Places for People?

Places for People own and manage thousands of homes across England and Scotland. But they have a limited presence in the South West of England. The partnership with SDR gives them an instant boost in assets in the region, with the promise of more to come through mutual working.
We will also bring into the group the value of our housing stock, which further strengthens PfPs long- term financial capacity.

What is the structure of Places for People and how do they ‘make their money’?

Places for People Group Limited is a leading Social Enterprise, a Company Limited by Guarantee, and the parent of the Group. SDR is a Community Benefit Society. A company limited by guarantee and a community benefit society are, to all intents and purposes, the same. Both are ‘not for profit’, and invest any profits back into the business. The objectives of both organisations are for social purposes. Just like SDR, Places for People is also registered under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, which means it is regulated by the Regulator of Social Housing.

They also have a group charity called ‘The Places Foundation’, which provides grants and social investment to ‘improve the lives of People and Communities that have experienced disadvantage and are furthest from the labour market’.

The Company Structure Chart includes a number of different companies that provide specialist and/or commercial services to the Group. Commercial activity provides additional income to the Group to supplement rental income and deliver on its social purpose to serve residents and communities. Click HERE to view or download the company structure chart.