Harrow Churches Housing Association (HCHA) is a small housing association owning and/or managing 397 units of a variety of housing with a special interest in the housing needs of older people.
HCHA CEO, Christopher Holley is adamant that it is possible to be small and dynamic, offering this advice, “We need to look at innovative development opportunities as well as traditional routes and be flexible enough to respond to new products and ideas”. He cites building strong partnerships, ensuring sound development and financial expertise as well as having a Board capable of assessing and working through risk effectively, as key to development success for smaller associations.
Being part of the West London Connected [development] Partnership has allowed HCHA to punch above its weight and develop where alone they would not be able to do so. For example; a 76 unit development in partnership with Octavia that delivered a high quality flagship Extra Care Scheme, independent adapted flats for younger wheelchair users owned and managed by HCHA and shared ownership owned by Octavia.
It was a difficult site to develop in a residential area but its success spurred HCHA on to tackle similar problems when it extended and upgraded an older sheltered housing scheme. Building into a tight space with existing HCHA and other surrounding neighbours remaining on site did not deter them.
The 28 new build life time homes with a stunning communal room set in woodland, opened in 2015 and are testament to another creative partnership, this time with a neighbouring church.
New emerging partnerships that move away from traditional funding routes and products can seem daunting to small providers and Christopher Holley admits that it took his team and his Board time to decide to launch a rent to buy housing scheme last year. They did so with Rentplus, a development company formed to provide affordable housing through private investment.
Working with housing associations and local authorities they provide housing for those who would not otherwise be able to buy a first home. The first HCHA managed flats in Oxford were not only a new and inventive solution to providing new homes for young families struggling to find any affordable home in the area but also marked a departure for HCHA outside of London.
'My Board see it as central to our social mission to provide more homes when and if we can. That clear steer has focused our activities on an ambitious, flexible and open minded development pipeline that not only belies our size but proves that small associations can make a tangible difference even in difficult times’.
HCHA have developed enough development expertise to repeat their success, most recently winning a tender to develop a further 58 units of high quality extra care housing.