Jill Haley is Chief Executive of Byker Community Trust housing association / February 9, 2018

The Byker Estate: from transition to transformation

Long before the Government announced the 1% rent cut, we were already a step ahead after reviewing our services, seeking improved service delivery and looking at ways to provide better value for money for our tenants.

Five years ago, Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association took over the ownership and management of 1,800 homes on an iconic Grade II listed Estate. It was designed and built between 1969 and 1983 by the architect Ralph Erskine and is recognised as one of the most influential and pioneering European social housing schemes of the 20th Century.

So we were delighted when the Byker Estate was named ‘Greatest Neighbourhood’ in the UK and Ireland in the Academy of Urbanism Awards 2018.

So, how has innovation helped BCT through a successful transition period?

We’re a relatively small housing association but rather than go down the merger route, we’ve implemented an innovative approach by reducing our costs and overheads through an innovative Cost Sharing Vehicle (CSV) arrangement.

We believe that when regeneration is done well, with the right approach and by the right people, neighbourhoods can be transformed.

Byker is a great neighbourhood with vibrant mixed communities, and steeped in history, which is something we are keen to preserve and celebrate. Since BCT was formed in July 2012, the estate has gone through significant change. At the time of stock transfer, we promised £39m worth of investments in the first 20 years of operation and we’ve already completed £20.5m improvements and committed a further £21m by 2025.

But it’s not just about investment in the bricks and mortar. Success is built on strong foundations and the development of effective relationships with the estate’s tenants and community groups.

Following consultation with tenants during 2014/15, we brought housing management services in-house and became a partner in an innovative Cost Sharing Vehicle (CSV) arrangement with Karbon Homes to deliver other services in a much more cost-efficient way. This has given us far more influence over the standards of service delivery and direct control over housing management and repairs and maintenance services, which has allowed the organisation to continually improve performance, remain customer focussed and deliver better value for money.

The new ‘Byker Approach’ is a bottom-up management methodology based around one-to-one engagement, leading to empowerment – which is what tenants asked for. We’ve implemented a new three-tier tenant engagement framework which centres around governance, engagement and customer care, and enables tenants and the wider community to engage with us in ways which suits them.

We’re passionate about providing excellent services through engaging, empowering and supporting tenants. We must acknowledge we need to work with and listen to tenants if we are to understand what their needs are and what they would like their homes and community to look like. We have developed a thriving and growing community that tenants are proud to live in and where others aspire to live in.

 

By Jill Haley, Chief Executive of Byker Community Trust housing association.

Housing associations have always turned society’s challenges into opportunities to improve people’s lives. Creating our Future taps into the energy and enthusiasm of the entire sector to better understand the trends shaping the future and co-create groundbreaking ideas in response. You can see more examples here.

If you would like to contribute a blog then we’d love to hear from you – please email us on futures@housing.org.uk.


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