Castle Vale Community Housing Association – resident led housing in partnership

HACT Case Study: Housing Associations Supporting Community Led Housing Developments

Castle Vale Community Housing Association (CVCHA) is a resident led housing association that owns and manages almost 2500 homes on the Castle Vale estate in north-east Birmingham.

It was established in the mid 1990’s under the auspices of Castle Vale Housing Action Trust (HAT); initially to take on over 1,000 new homes built by the HAT. When the HAT was wound up in 2005, the tenants of the former Council housing that had been improved by the HAT voted almost unanimously to have their homes transferred to CVCHA.

CVCHA has a long tradition of supporting wider programmes of neighbourhood renewal both on Castle Vale and increasingly in the surrounding areas. Stockland Green Opportunities – Housing and Training (SGOHT) approached CVCHA in 2012 regarding a potential partnership and this was formalised in mid 2013.

Stockland Green Opportunities – Housing and Training (SGOHT) is a community-led housing and training project initiated by a local councillor, Cllr Penny Holbrook, together with some concerned residents. They were worried about the effects of the uncontrolled growth of the private rented sector in Stockland Green, an area of mainly Victorian housing just north of ‘Spaghetti Junction’ punctuated by Council housing estates.

In recent years, as houses came onto the market, most of them were being acquired by private landlords; many of whom were carrying out poor quality conversions and letting them at high rents to people on short term tenancies. The group felt this was destabilising the local community and they were also concerned about the lack of job opportunities for young residents in the area. Out of this came the idea for Stockland Green Opportunities – Housing and Training; they decided to form a community-led housing organisation based in the area that would compete with private landlords by buying up properties, improving them to a good standard and letting them at reasonable rents to people with a local connection. They also decided to look at how much of the renovation work might be undertaken by young people, as part of training programme.

For 12 months or so the newly formed SGOHT looked at how this might be accomplished; they undertook training; looked at business models; and – importantly – talked to potential partners. CVCHA was contacted early on and it soon became clear that both organisations had a shared vision.

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In the early part of 2013, discussions took place as to how CVCHA could help SGHOT to enter the housing market in the way they envisaged and how CVCHA could underwrite the costs of the project for an initial period. In mid-2013 an agreement was reached, in which CVCHA undertook to acquire eight to ten properties on behalf of SGHOT. The arrangement was that SGHOT would oversee the project, they would set the overall strategy and they would develop suitable policies regarding the how the properties would be managed, who would live in them, how market rents would be set and so on. CVHCHA, working as an agent of SGHOT, would find properties, carry out viability assessments, acquire suitable properties, undertake improvements to an agreed quality standard and then let them to suitable tenants, following SGOHT’s local lettings policy. Alongside CVCHA, a local training agency Kingsbury Training was appointed, after a competitive tendering process, and they recruited local youngsters to undertake the refurbishment work on an agreed schedule of rates.

Eighteen months on and the project and the partnership is already proving to be successful. CVCHA has purchased five houses, which have been fully improved – with the bulk of the work being undertaken by Kingsbury Training – and they are now let to people with a local connection. CVCHA has a dedicated member of staff working on the project, Cheryl Dockery, and she reports regularly to the board of SGOHT. Cheryl identifies properties and she works with CVCHA’s finance team to make sure that any acquisition/conversion will stack up financially.

Finding and acquiring properties needs a real understanding of the local market and of the rent levels that can be reasonably charged and SGOHT and CVCHA are delighted that their business model seems to be working and that they have been able to deliver good quality to housing and create job opportunities. They are both beginning to think ahead and to consider how their ‘social market renting’ project might grow, Furthermore there is considerable interest in the project from other areas of Birmingham that face similar problems.

If you require further information on this project, contact Cheryl Dockery, Project Manager.