Judges were impressed by believe housing’s commitment to provide both affordable and quality homes in communities of greatest need across the region, from small rural villages to town and city centres. In some communities limited affordable development has taken place in decades.
The innovative approach has included the prioritisation of previously developed brown field-sites, the construction of much needed family housing for affordable rent and affordable home ownership, as well as a significant number of wheelchair adaptable bungalows.
The judges were also hugely impressed by believe housing’s rapid progress. The housing association has developed nearly 400 homes since it was established in 2015 and has plans to more than double that number. They were also interested to learn about how the construction of new homes is now reversing the loss of affordable houses to rent through Right to Buy sales.
The UK Housing Awards gong is the second national honour that the programme has picked up. The awards are the largest in the affordable housing sector and pitted believe housing up against the best builders in the country. The new build programme was also handed The Guardian Public Service Award for Housing late last year.
Homes have already been completed in communities like Bishop Auckland, Bowburn, Crook, Peterlee, Pity Me, and Seaham. The first new homes in Murton are due to be completed in early 2021 and a site in Easington Village is likely to follow close behind.
believe housing’s £90m new-build programme has focused on house types that are not currently popular with private sector developers, including a significant proportion of bungalows — an approach that only a not-for-profit provider could adopt. By focusing on the social impact, rather than being solely driven by figures, the programme has been a huge success for the end users of the homes rather than for shareholders.
Director of Development at believe housing, Kate Abson, said: “I’m so proud of everyone involved in the programme. This award is the biggest in the affordable housing world so it means a lot to be bringing it back to the north east and is a fantastic achievement.
“It’s a huge honour for us, but it’s also great to see recognition of the different challenges that our region has to overcome to ensure the best quality affordable housing provision for our communities.
“Now we’re focused on how we take our construction programme to the next level. We’re not just looking at more homes, it must be the right homes in the right places, that make a real difference to our customers and communities. We’re also looking at how we improve the environmental performance of our new properties. And how we can make a genuinely affordable home available to more people.”
The new-build programme will exceed more than 700 new homes by 2022, with land and funding already secured to reach that milestone.
Header image shows the new-build team at believe housing.