Housing Association has new name but same commitment to communities

TO coincide with the publication of its annual report, Berwickshire Housing Association has rebranded itself as BHA Homes and chief executive Helen Forsyth said the aim going forward was for the housing provider to improve life for everyone in Berwickshire.

Its annual report documents that in the past year BHA Homes has: created more direct employment through its own growth, now employing 202 local people; reduced home energy costs and kept money in the community, with plans to install energy-saving panels in approximately 300 homes over the coming year; received planning permission for a community windfarm at Hoprigshiels, the income from which Helen Forsyth claims will help the housing provider build up to 20 homes a year for 25 years; and recruited 30 young apprentices with 80 per cent going into full time jobs.

One of the other key figures within the annual report is that in the past year BHA Homes have spent almost £2 million with local contractors for repair and planned mainteance on properties.

And Helen said this is something that has definitely paid dividends for the association.

“Whilst other housing providers employ larger contractors we are committed to keeping the work local whenever we can,” she commented.

“During the harsh winters of the last two years our contractors have walked through the snow in order to carry out essential repair work.

“One example that sticks in the mind is when a few of them came to the aid of an old lady who couldn’t shut her door in the cold. Going the extra mile for jobs like this means a lot.”

The wide age range of its tenants provides BHA Homes with a variety of commitments and challenges and Helen said with that in mind she was very keen for people not just to view the association as a faceless organisation that just collected people’s rent.

“With regard to young people, our Next Steps Programme, which has been running for the past three years, has been a big success.

“A lot of youngsters come to us at 16 wanting to get a house of their own so we decided to go into schools and work with youngsters on a one-to-one basis.

“This isn’t all just about finding them a house it’s about preparing them for life after school; looking at potential jobs, how they can support themselves.

“If and when they do become one of our tenants we want them to see us as a friend rather than an enemy. If we need to speak to them about something we want them to listen not shut the door and turn the music up.”

BHA Homes’ subsiduary Seton Care has been instrumental in supporting older residents, both those living in its care home in Berwick and those living independently in Berwickshire and this work will be boosted further with the recruitment of a group of volunteers who will be on hand to assist elderly tenants with a wide variety of tasks.

The towns where BHA Homes has the majority of its properties - Duns and Eyemouth - will continue to be a priority, whether its tackling disruptive tenants through its dedicated community safety officer or getting on board with community groups for projects such as Duns Volunteer Hall.

Helen added: “Times are going to be challenging in the next few years if working with other partners, the local voluntary sector such as BAVS, the police and the local authority will help to improve life for all of us in Berwickshire we will do it.”