Homes group announces £1bn investment in social housing across North East

A housing group has unveiled a £1bn investment package to build new stock and create thousands of jobs in the next five years.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 4:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 4:43 pm
The Thirteen housing association, which owns and manages 34,000 homes, unveiled the funding package to improve existing homes and neighbourhoods and build new properties up to 2024.
The Thirteen housing association, which owns and manages 34,000 homes, unveiled the funding package to improve existing homes and neighbourhoods and build new properties up to 2024.

The Thirteen housing association, which owns and manages 34,000 homes, unveiled the funding package to “improve existing homes and neighbourhoods” and build new properties up to 2024.

It’s all part of the group’s five-year strategy to create 6,000 construction jobs in the region, help 2,000 people into training or employment and “secure up to £6m in additional welfare benefits” for its tenants.

It also wants to offer 300 to 400 apprenticeships in the programme and build 3,000 more affordable homes.

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Ian Wardle, chief executive of Thirteen, said the £1bn would allow improvements to 20,000 homes in the next five years and spark a “40% increase” in the amount it invests in its properties.

He added: “There are new homes being created – about 3,000 affordable homes.

“When people need a home and are in housing need, we’ll be able to respond to that.”

Mr Wardle said the £1bn would come from Thirteen’s reinvested “surplus” and grants from government body Homes England.

But he added the “vast majority” of the sum would be from borrowing.

He added: “We borrow and with the rents we get in we pay off the loans over time – we’ve had the financial strength to be able to do that.”

The housing association is part of the Thirteen Gropup, which also manages properties owned by Housing Hartlepool.

Mr Wardle said the £1bn would start being used in April to improve all Thirteen estates this year.

Thirteen’s strategy is also hoping to put 2,000 people into training programmes or employment in the next five years.

On top of an estimated 6,000 construction jobs, there are ambitions to create “300 to 400” apprenticeships.

Mr Wardle added Thirteen was also investing £11m in its staff to help people navigate the benefits system.

He added: “It’s quite difficult at times and because of that we’re making a significant investment in our teams to help people get tax credits and Universal Credit, help people apply for jobs, learn a trade or go on a course.

“We saw a massive increase in demand and we increased the size of our team last year.”

Val Scollen, chairwoman of Thirteen’s “customer engagement group”, said the £1bn investment was “great news” for tenants.

The Billingham resident added: “It’s going to make a big difference because the money they are spending – they’re doing up lots of houses and offering community apprenticeships.

“When I go to the board meeting I’m not just a nodding dog, if anything comes up with tenants they ask me about it straight away.

“It’s absolutely fantastic, especially for the North-east – some of the other associations want to start looking at what Thirteen is doing.”

Alex Metcalfe , Local Democracy Reporting Service