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Stepping up a gear - Barnsbury HA

Barnsbury HA is an Islington housing association, working in a borough which desperately needs more homes which are affordable for people who live and work here.

A long spell of new build and refurbishment by Barnsbury in the 1960s and 70s was followed by more sporadic, opportunity-led development.

Barnsbury HA knew they had capacity to build more and so in 2017, their Board agreed a new, proactive development strategy. Land in Islington is scarce and expensive, so they agreed the realistic options for growth were stock transfer, s106 deals or better use of existing properties.

Their first move was buying a 40-home sheltered scheme in a Georgian building overlooking Highbury Fields from Crown Simmons HA, another g320 member. The deal included a cluster of bedsits originally targeted at civil servants.

There were benefits all round. The tenants got a local landlord and Crown Simmons got a capital receipt to build new homes closer to their core area of operation.

The transfer has enabled many strategic benefits for BHA, including increasing their stock, making them more cost efficient. They gained a skilled employee whose expertise has enabled BHA to enhance their services for all their older tenants. An unusually high proportion of their tenants are aged 50+ and they want to stay with BHA as they get older.The bedsits inspired BHA to launch a new service for key workers, where their small, harder-to-let homes are let to people on low incomes priced out of Islington.

This deal was complex but they brought in the right support to develop their 30-year business plan, raise £8m private finance from Clydesdale and used the development, strategic and analytical skills within their board and staff team.

The deal shows that BHA were capable of imaginative and thoughtful growth and challenges the notion that small HAs lack development expertise and ambition.

BHA has also recently completed a 4-home new build scheme in Holloways, is preferred partner on a 15-home S1-6 scheme and is about to submit a planning application to create six new flats and a community room in under-used garages on its main estate.


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