Over the last three years, BECHA has been working in partnership with a larger association to develop a small site with a view to providing 12 new homes.
Bexley Community Housing Association (BECHA) owns 140 homes in Bexley and manages a further 63 alms-houses in Gravesend, on behalf of a local charity. In January 2019, twelve delighted Bexley residents moved into their new homes. As one of the country’s smaller associations, how did BECHA do this? The main ingredients were partnership, a creative approach to asset management, plus a board willing to take a judicious risk and a bit of luck.
Orbit developed the properties with Chartway Homes on BECHA's behalf. BECHA paid a percentage of the contract price for the services of Orbit's development team plus a contract manager who managed the scheme on site. BECHA put in a sizeable chunk of their own money – the luck came in when they sold an empty dilapidated property at auction and did amazingly well. The balance was raised through a charity bank, which were more flexible than the bigger players with less onerous covenants. One of the key issues for BECHA was cashflow and they were also helped with a grant allocation from the mayor’s affordable homes programme in return for charging London living rents.
What did BECHA learn? The importance of being a good client. Orbit had the relationship with the builders not BECHA and, while BECHA could influence decisions, they respected the fact they were one partner in a bigger team. Also, BECHA started the financial negotiations early and made sure they kept the funders well informed.
The partnership worked well and none of the partners made BECHA feel ‘small’. Everyone was delighted when it all came good. New tenants said ‘We’ve come from a tower block. We fell in love with this flat as soon as we saw it and we can’t believe our luck’.
In one fell swoop BECHA increased their stock by 15% - the feeling of satisfaction is enormous.