A new report by housing data provider Housemark has revealed that Merlin’s operating margin is among the best in the country – and getting better.
In the last financial year our operating margin rose to 33.6%, up from 26.7% the previous year. With the average operating margin of 30.8% across the other 140 housing associations we were benchmarked against, it puts us in the top 25% of our peers. This is important given the challenging operating environment we are working in. Over the next four years our rental income will fall by 1% a year due to the rent cut introduced by the Government. Being financially viable enables us to continue delivering vital services to our customers and communities as well as reinvesting in our properties and building necessary new homes within South Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas. In the current year we're on track to build more homes than ever, before and have ambitious plans to increase our home building programme even further over the next two years.
Ensuring we are financially strong is one of our key goals of our corporate plan which we launched two years ago. At that time we were aiming to have increased our operating margin to 30% by 2017 but we are already ahead of this and are on course to meet and beat our target of an operating margin of 34% by 2019. Our record on rent collection is also on a par with the best. The amount of rent we’re losing as a result of properties being emptied has fallen from 1.05% to 0.61%, well below the average of 0.90%.
Other highlights of the report showed an improvement in the time it takes us to make empty homes ready for the next residents to move into and a fall in the cost of carrying out this work. The figures, which compare our performance at the end of the 2015-16 financial year, also showed we had one of the lowest eviction rates and the number of new homes developed compared to our total housing stock, increased from 0.23% to 0.94% as we increased our programme of home building and delivered 79 new properties.