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.”

Minister sees how technology-enabled care impacts on people’s lives in Bedford

19 May, 2016

The Minister of State for Community and Social Care, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, today visited Tavistock Court, a 32 bed Extra Care scheme owned by bpha in Bedford.

During the visit, the Minister was able to visit the Dementia Friendly scheme, meet with staff and residents and explore how technology is supporting carers, and people living with a range of needs.

Mr Burt said: “It was great to see how housing with care, coupled with advances in technology, can enable people to remain independent, and live somewhere safely and with dignity. Technology can enable people to have the care and support they need and feel connected to our families and community in so many ways.”

bpha manages 18 Extra Care schemes, providing varying levels of care support tailored to individual needs.

During the visit, the Minister heard about bpha’s future vision for the provision of affordable retirement living, and how bpha plans to make digital technology more accessible to its customers.

bpha works closely with Tunstall Healthcare Group, the leading provider of technology enabled care which supports older people and those with living with dementia, learning disabilities, mental health and chronic health conditions, to live as independently, securely and happily as they are able.

Julie Wittich, Director of Service Delivery at bpha, said: “With nearly one in four people in the UK expected to be aged over 65 by 2040, providing housing with care support is vital to bpha. Our Extra Care schemes enable some of the most vulnerable people to live as independently as possible in a safe, secure environment. bpha’s future vision is to build more homes for older people in the communities we serve and we are currently developing 4 new Extra Care schemes including one in Wootton in Bedfordshire.”

Ali Rogan, External Affairs Director, Tunstall Healthcare says “It is often difficult to imagine how technology can play a part in the care of a loved one. However being able to see it in action is so powerful, particularly for carers. Technology enabled care, such as telecare has the potential to transform lives for the better – not only for carers but also of the people they care for – by reducing safety issues, enhancing quality of life and dignity, and even enabling carers to continue employment.”

Technology on display during the Minister’s visit to Tavistock Court included telecare safety, environment and sensory sensors for example bed occupancy, epilepsy, medication and movement; the UK’s first IP housing communications system – Communicall ViIP with hi-tech touch screen app based phone; and Remote Patient Monitoring for example BP monitor, glucometer, pulse oximeter with tablets and support app based systems.

bpha partners with Police to tackle dangerous driving in Bedfordshire

20 April, 2016

bpha has partnered with Bedfordshire Police to tackle speeding in the local area.

Every year, over 300 people are seriously injured by dangerous driving in Bedfordshire, and bpha residents have raised road safety as a major concern. To help make our roads safer, bpha has provided nine employee volunteers to undertake Community Speed Watch sessions.

Community Speed Watch allows active members of the public to monitor how fast vehicles are travelling with speed detection devices. Vehicles exceeding the speed limit are referred to the Police with the aim of educating drivers to reduce their speeds.

In the last week, bpha employee volunteers checked the speed of 1,277 vehicles – 22 of which were over the speed limit. Those over the speed limit have been contacted by the Police.

bpha employee volunteer Greg Cox said: “Our residents have been concerned about speeding in Bedford, so I’m delighted that bpha is pro-actively helping to make our roads safer. We have received some really positive feedback from local residents, who thanked us for volunteering our time for what they see as a worthwhile initiative.”

Chief Inspector Neill Waring of Bedfordshire Police said: “Schemes like Speed Watch are driven by volunteers, and it’s fantastic to have volunteers from bpha on board helping to educate motorists and raise awareness of the dangers of speeding. Bedfordshire Police can’t tackle crime alone, and so working alongside our partners like this is vital in helping us protect people, fight crime and keep Bedfordshire safe.”

bpha will continue to support Bedfordshire Police with Community Speed Watch throughout the spring as part of their 25th Anniversary employee volunteering scheme, which has given all employees the opportunity to engage with and support local communities.