Social housing cheat to pay back £35,000

28 November, 2016

A bpha tenant has been ordered to pay back almost £35,000 after being prosecuted for lying to obtain low cost social housing.

Omid Hashemi, of Alamein Avenue, Bedford, has also been sentenced to a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 2 years after claiming that he, his wife and his younger brother were living in overcrowded conditions.

However, after a referral by bpha to Bedford Borough Council, it was revealed that Mr Hashemi owned a three bed house, purchased just three months before applying for housing, which he rented out for profit.

In February this year, Mr Hashemi, was prosecuted at Luton Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation and was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Following the conviction an application was made to seize Mr Hashemi’s assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Court heard evidence that Mr Hashemi benefited from his crime and ordered him to pay almost £35,000, which represented all of his available assets. The amount must be paid within three months or Mr Hashemi will face nine months in prison.

George Parkinson, Head of Housing Management at bpha, said: “Tenancy fraud is a crime and takes away housing from those people who need it the most.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this case and will continue to work closely with Bedford Borough Council and other partners to ensure that suspicions are fully investigated.”

If you suspect that someone may have lied on their application for housing, may have abandoned their property, or may be subletting their home please report any suspicions to bpha in confidence on 0330 100 0272 or email

Joining forces to fight tenancy fraud

1 November, 2016

bpha has joined forces with Bedford Borough Council to launch a joint campaign to help identify tenancy fraud across the borough.

The Government has recognised that social housing tenancy fraud is a national problem, with homes being illegally sublet or people lying about their circumstance to get a tenancy.

The result is that homes are occupied by people who are not entitled to live there, thus increasing demand for organisations to provide expensive temporary accommodation for families desperately in need of affordable homes.

To help tackle the problem bpha has embarked on a joint working programme with Bedford Borough Council’s Fraud Investigation Service to investigate social housing fraud within the borough.

Since the initiative started last year, 21 properties have been repossessed due to tenancy fraud, resulting in more homes being available for those in need.

In addition, four criminal prosecutions and five cautions have been taken against those involved in tenancy fraud.

By addressing the issue, bpha and Bedford Borough Council aim to increase the number of Social Housing tenancies available across the borough and take action against those who deliberately and dishonestly abuse the system for their own gain.

Councillor Charles Royden, Deputy Mayor and Bedford Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, said: “People who sublet social housing may be committing tenancy fraud and are denying families in need of a place to call their own.”

People can report any suspicions of tenancy fraud to bpha in confidence on 0330 100 0272 or email

You can also confidentially report Tenancy Fraud to the council by emailing or call 0800 917 8491.

bpha appoints new Non-Executive Director to its Board

26 October, 2016

bpha is pleased to announce that Jill Ainscough has been appointed as Non-Executive Director to the bpha Board and also as Chair of the Remuneration and Nominations Committee.

jill-ainscough-linkedinJill is a highly experienced non-executive director having completed six years on the board at Sport England, including a period chairing the Audit Committee.

Jill is currently also a board member at the BMJ and was previously a non-executive director at Lakehouse Plc, where she chaired the remuneration committee.


Formerly Managing Director of Easynet, Jill joined Ofcom as Chief Operating Officer in 2007. Jill was a member of the main board covering wide ranging regulation of the communications sector and postal services. In this role she was also instrumental in delivering spectrum management for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Jill brings with her a wide breadth of experience as an executive working in commercial and operational roles within the private and public sectors whilst contributing a sound understanding of what it means to be a good non-executive director.

Jill said: “I am delighted to be appointed to the board of bpha and I am really looking forward to contributing to the association’s work to help more people access affordable housing. As a Bedford resident, I was particularly keen to support my local community and I’m very aware of the importance of social housing in this area. ”

Kevin Bolt, Chief Executive Officer at bpha, said: “We are pleased to welcome Jill to the board of bpha. She brings a wide range of skills and experience to our Board as well as a strong local perspective. We manage just under 18,000 homes and are one of the top 30 developing housing associations in the country.

“It is important that we have a strong and experienced Board to drive the performance of the organisation at a time when the housing sector is facing a range of economic, social and legislative challenges.”

Milton Keynes MP joins community walkabout

7 October, 2016

A Milton Keynes MP had a tour of bpha properties and met residents at a neighbourhood walkabout in the city.

Mark Lancaster, MP for Milton Keynes North, visited the Oakridge Park estate on Friday, October 7, along with Housing and Community Officers from bpha.

During the walkabout Mr Lancaster heard what bpha is doing to help residents and understand any issues they may have.

Mr Lancaster said: “In an expanding community like Milton Keynes a proactive approach like this to engage with residents and make them feel part of the community is something which has got to be right.

“In a new city we need to foster a sense of community and help make people feel welcome and it is reinforcing the positive fabric of our society.

“With a sense of community estates get looked after better and quality of life is better.

“Anything we can do to break down barriers has got to be a good thing and I’m viewing what the BPHA do as an example of best practice that landlords should be encouraging to happen elsewhere in Milton Keynes.”

bpha organises regular neighbourhood walkabouts across its various sites to better engage with residents and listen to their concerns.

Steve Parsons, Housing Officer for Oakridge Park at bpha, said: “These walkabouts are a visible presence if people want to come out and tell us about any issues.”

MUFG and bpha complete £75m social housing deal

6 October, 2016

Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group’s (MUFG) banking arm and Bedford-based housing association bpha today announce the signing of a new £75m ten-year revolving credit facility.

MUFG is one of the world’s largest and most stable banking groups. It launched a Social Housing offering last year that consists of a number of lending products, including 5-10 years’ secured lending by way of either term loan or revolving credit facility (RCF), as well as complementary business lines such as transaction banking, derivatives and capital market solutions. This deal represents a notable transaction in the sector and MUFG’s third loan to a registered provider.

The facility further builds on bpha’s work last year to increase liquidity, whereby £80m of funding was raised through the Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme. In addition, the £100m restructuring of bpha’s derivative portfolio resulted in a significant reduction of potential mark to market exposure. This work, combined with today’s deal, ensures the continued viability of bpha’s long-term commitment to build 500-plus new homes per annum for the foreseeable future.

Robert Bartlett, Executive Director, MUFG, said: “bpha were one of the first registered providers we approached last year and we are delighted to have been able to put this facility in place. The bpha management team have given us a great deal of confidence in being able to navigate the business through the ongoing changes within the sector and we very much look forward to building a long term relationship with such an important client.”

Paul Gray, Chief Financial Officer of bpha, added: “We are delighted to have agreed this 10-year revolving credit facility with MUFG, which offered competitive terms, fitted well with our debt maturity requirements and will support our ongoing development of new homes. The team at MUFG were straightforward to deal with and we look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”

Michael Scales, Director, Infrastructure, MUFG, added: “Signing with bpha adds another strong registered provider to our expanding Social Housing portfolio. We continue to see keen interest in our RCF product on a bilateral basis and we are working on a number of other opportunities within the housing sector.”

New lease of life for former bpha HQ

19 September, 2016

An office building in the heart of Bedford town centre has been given a new lease of life after being transformed into fresh, modern living-spaces by bpha.

Pilgrims House in Horne Lane was built in 1991 as the former head office of bpha but following a move to new premises in Manton Lane in 2014 a decision was taken to convert the building into new homes.

On Friday, 16 September, it officially became a block of 23 newly converted one and two-bedroom flats and was reopened by the Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson.

In line with some of the key themes of this year’s housing week, the project demonstrates how bpha is encouraging people to look to Housing Associations for better quality, more sustainable housing options, whilst empowering them to ‘own their future’ by considering options such as shared ownership to secure a home and set themselves up for the long-term.

Sarah Ireland, Director of Development and Sales at bpha, said: “Over the last 25 years we’ve built more than 10,000 new homes in this region, so it’s fitting that what was our original home has been converted into affordable housing to meet the needs of 23 households in the centre of Bedford.

“All the new owners are first-time buyers and 14 are from Bedford itself. Without the shared ownership scheme none of them would have been able to get onto the first rung of the housing ladder.”

[l to r] The Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson, Michelle Marotta, Rhiana Duckett, and Bedford MP Richard Fuller

Rhiana Duckett, 24, a Marketing Executive from Luton will be one of the first residents to move into Pilgrims House. She said: “I’m so excited to finally own and be moving into my first home. I’ve always dreamed of owning my own place but I was worried about being able to afford to pay a mortgage. Thanks to the shared ownership scheme I’ve been able to buy 60% of my flat now with the aim of buying more shares and eventually owning 100%. bpha have made the journey really easy and stress free too.”

Joining Rhiana in one of the other properties will be Michelle Marotta, 28, a HR Administrator from Marston Mortaine (pictured above right with Rhiana), she said: “I had been saving and saving to try and afford a deposit on a flat but rising house prices were holding me back. Now, thanks to shared ownership I’ve got my own home and affordable monthly outgoings. Plus, I get a beautiful, new flat that no one else has ever lived in!”


The stunning refurbished Pilgrims House

Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford Borough, said: “This project is just one part of a wider regeneration project for the centre of Bedford as next year we will see the completion of the Riverside North project development which will bring new retail and leisure facilities to the town, and additional housing.

“Like many areas in the south east, Bedford faces a shortage in affordable housing and, in this town alone, it is estimated that we need another 5,000 new homes by 2031; another reason why schemes like this are so important.”

bpha cements 25th anniversary year with commitment to future house building off the back of strongest ever financial results

5 September, 2016

bpha’s 2015/16 financial statements show that the association has grown its housing stock from only 7,280 units in 1991 to 17,896 units in 2016. This includes the completion of 450 new homes in areas with some of the most acute need for affordable housing throughout Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire.

The strong financial performance ensures the organisation’s continued viability and underpins its long-term commitment to build around 500 plus new homes per annum for the foreseeable future.

bpha’s 25th anniversary year has seen the delivery of a record net surplus of £17.8m and £80m of new funding raised through the Affordable Housing Guarantee Scheme, taking liquidity to its highest ever level. The operating margin of 46% for social housing activity remains one of the highest in the sector.

Other highlights during the 2015/16 year included:

  • First open market sales through subsidiary, Bushmead Homes, to create profits for reinvestment in social housing.
  • £23.2m invested in maintaining and improving existing homes.
  • V1 and G1 viability and governance ratings maintained.
  • 4,700 hours of volunteering donated by employees and tenants in our communities.
  • 100% of homes met Decent Homes Standard.
  • Extension of Help to Buy agency contract for South East and East of England, with over 7,000 equity loan completions.
  • £100m restructuring of derivative portfolio resulting in a significant reduction of potential mark to market exposure.

Paul Gray, Chief Financial Officer, said: “The year to March 2016 has, by many measures, been bpha’s best so far, laying strong foundations for the future. Efficient management of our housing stock and careful investment decisions within a well understood and tight geography continue to ensure that we can deliver much needed new homes whilst strengthening our financial performance.

“Our strategy of growth through development results in younger, easier to manage, housing portfolio and robust stock condition data allows us to target investment in the most cost effective way. During the year we have significantly strengthened the Board and senior management, invested in staff recruitment and training and improved our systems which together facilitate a commercially driven focus to income maximisation and cost control whilst improving customer service.

“Our decision to fundamentally restructure our interest swaps and to raise new funding also resulted in improved liquidity, a lower cost of debt and materially lower exposure to margin calls. bpha is now in its strongest ever financial position.”

Bedford resident wins award for his work on communal garden

12 July, 2016

A resident at Queens Court in Bedford has been presented with an award for his work in his communal garden.

Terry Stephens, a resident at the bpha retirement housing scheme Queens Court, was nominated by a fellow resident for the award.

Every year, bpha runs a competition to find the ‘best kept gardens’ amongst their 17,000 plus homes and this year the focus was on the best communal and general gardens.

Terry said: “I enjoy working in the garden because it brings people out of their flats, 50% of the residents here come out and enjoy the garden. There is nothing worse than being stuck in your flat alone. Community is what it’s all about.”

Marie Taylor, Head of Supported and Retirement Housing at bpha, said: “Terry has made big difference to his home by creating a wonderful garden which all his fellow neighbours can enjoy.

“We’re really pleased to recognise his hard work and we always want to encourage all residents to take pride in their outside areas. We hope that other residents will be inspired by Terry to have a go in their gardens too.”

bpha re-develops former head office into shared ownership homes in Bedford Town Centre

13 June, 2016

Housing Association bpha is investing £1.7m in Bedford Town Centre by re-developing its former Head Office at Pilgrims House, Horne Lane, into 23 shared ownership apartments with secure allocated parking.

Due to be completed this autumn the apartments, located near the new Riverside North development in Bedford, will provide much needed affordable housing in the centre of Bedford.

Starting at full market values of £140,000* for a one bedroom apartment and £170,000 for a two bedroom apartment, the development is ideal for local residents looking to get on the property ladder.

With shares starting at 25%, it is anticipated that demand will be high for bpha’s new shared ownership development; 9 out of the 23 apartments were sold in the first week of release.

Angela Hardman, Head of Development at bpha, said: “With around 80 people every month applying for shared ownership properties in Bedford alone, there is a huge demand for housing in the local area. We are delighted to be providing affordable living right in the centre of Bedford, which will be finished to a high specification and ideal for first time buyers.”

*Values correct at time of publication, may be subject to change

bpha thanks Community Heroes to mark National Volunteer Week

8 June, 2016

To mark National Volunteers Week (1-12 June 2016), Housing Association bpha proudly hosted an awards ceremony on 7 June to celebrate and recognise their volunteers, who have given over 2,500 hours of their time to making a difference in their local bpha communities.

Over 60 volunteers braved the bad weather and storms to attend the evening ceremony at the Harpur Suite in Bedford. Some truly remarkable community groups and individuals were presented with Community Hero Awards to recognise how they have helped to improve the lives of people in their communities.

A special Long Service Certificate was also presented to Rev. Richard Howlett, who was inducted as Vicar of the Church of St Mary in Goldington Bedford in 2005. With the support of his wife Katherine, Richard has led on a number of important community initiatives, such as building a shelter in Milburn Road and developing an award-winning community garden project, Golden Gardens. On receiving his award, Richard said: “I am amazed and very honoured to be presented with this award. I have been pleased to work with volunteers and bpha in our common aim to transform our communities.”

Community & Financial Inclusion Manager, Nicky Dahl, who hosted the evening said: “Our volunteers make such a difference in their communities, and they don’t receive a penny for all the hard work they do. Our volunteer awards ceremony is bpha’s way of saying thank you to them for their efforts.”

This year’s bpha Community Hero awards were presented to:

Chris Forse – Digital Hero

Hockliffe Road Community Garden – Green Hero

John Hammond – Local Hero

Ivor and Lind Owens – Local Hero

Elsie Dawson – Local Hero

Rev. Richard Howlett – Long Service to the Community

In June 2015, bpha also launched its first Employee Volunteering programme to mark its 25th Anniversary.

Over the past year, over 300 bpha employees have contributed 2,000 hours of their time to support community projects and initiatives, such as foodbanks and the Re-Use Centre in Bedford.