Lochaber Housing Association

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Twenty Five Years Commemorative Booklet

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Christmas Card Competition 2013

Christmas Card Competition 2013Lochaber Housing Association welcomed the very deserving winner in our popular Design a Christmas Card competition, to our offices on the 3rd December.

This year, Maighsi Rough aged 8 from Acharacle Primary School produced the winning design. Maighsi and the rest of her class visited Printsmith to watch the card in production as part of the prize.

Maighsi said "When I was first told I had won the competition I was excited but a bit nervous, I am really happy that my design was chosen for the Lochaber Housing Association Christmas Card". The Association staff were treated to the class performing a very enjoyable gaelic song that they had been learning. The childrens’ teacher Margaret Ford, commented "The pupils had a wonderful time visiting Printsmith and Lochaber Housing Association offices. The staff have been so kind to the children and we have all enjoyed ourselves".
The Association had received designs from schools throughout Lochaber who all benefited from a small donation, for their Christmas parties.

Chief Executive, Blair Allan thanked all the schools who took part and especially thanked Printsmith for welcoming the children into their workshop.

Maighsi was presented with a framed copy of her design and a gift by staff members Kirsty Burns and Sheree Kennedy.

Click here for the other cards in this year's competition »

Good News on the Horizon for Lochaber Housing Association
AGM welcomes news of improved funding options

Lochaber Housing Association AGMThere was plenty to celebrate at the recent 25th Annual General Meeting of Lochaber Housing Association (LHA).

From the announcement of improved funding and lending options - meaning the Association may be able to begin development work again in the near future - to the presentation of several awards marking the good work carried out by LHA, and its tenants,  it was an evening of celebration as well as a time to reflect on the many successes achieved since the organisation was formed just over a quarter of a century ago.

Before the AGM proper, a packed meeting at Caol Community Centre heard a number of personal reflections from current  LHA chairperson Di Alexander - who has been involved since the Association’s inception – as well as from former chairs Monsignor Thomas Wynne and Alison Gainsford, both long-standing LHA supporters.

Former directors Roy McCrone and Jim Dickson, neither of whom could be present at the AGM, sent  messages congratulating  LHA staff and supporters on the work they have achieved on behalf of the various Lochaber communities, in the face of “apparently insurmountable odds”.

Di Alexander told Friday night’s (13.9.13) meeting: “Back in the 1980s, rural housing was hardly given a thought as far as policy making was concerned, with the main focus being on the massive housing needs of Scotland’s urban centres.

“Many people in Lochaber, particularly in the landward communities, were living in substandard accommodation at that time and we recognised there was a very real need to put that right for local people.”

Following the Thatcher government’s decision to introduce the “right to buy” initiative for council house tenants, and the inability of local councils to build replacement homes for those sold under the scheme, housing associations became “the only other show in town,” he added.

Working with Shelter Scotland, and with a wide range of local partner bodies – and with particular input from Father Wynne, Iain MacMaster and then newly elected councillor Michael Foxley – a steering group was set up. Members managed to persuade Lochaber District Council to provide support, and a much-needed start-up grant, enabling the housing association to be born.

“Father Wynne brought his very best qualities to bear in putting over the moral and practical case for a housing association for Lochaber and it was an emotional moment when councillors finally voted in favour of the association,” Di said.

Paying tribute to the “first class” staff and volunteer committee members who have been “the engine room” of  LHA over the past 25 years, he added: “Because of their fantastic commitment, we have been able to build a lot of houses which otherwise would not have been built, in places where they would not have been built.

“Lochaber Housing Association is about providing houses, but it is so much more than that – it is about people and communities and thanks to the interaction of a huge network of agencies and individuals we have been able to tackle some of the housing issues in Lochaber.

“I am pleased to report that the public subsidy has, very recently, been restored to something approaching its previous levels and the banks are at least now talking more constructively. This is much better news than this time last year and I hope to have even better news for you at next year’s AGM.”

However, he cautioned: “We all know that we cannot rest on our laurels. There are many challenges to be faced in the months and years to come – not least the impact of the bedroom tax and forthcoming universal credits system – and we are determined to keep championing the cause for affordable housing in Lochaber.

“But I think we can take five minutes to say to ourselves that we’ve not done too bad over the first 25 years!”

Monsignor Wynne pointed out that LHA had originally been the brainchild of Di Alexander and paid tribute to his “enthusiasm and commitment” to the cause.

He added: “I think everyone involved can be immensely proud of the fact that Lochaber Housing Association has managed to get 750 houses built in some of the most rural areas of Lochaber.

“This has ensured the continuation of many small communities and provided dignity for those who were badly in need of quality homes.”

Alison Gainsford added: “I  know how crucial and important the work of the Association has been and will continue to be in building  and maintaining vibrant communities throughout Lochaber and wish all concerned all the very best for the next 25 years.”

Lochaber Housing Association Jubilee Celebrations – Community group awards

Lochaber Housing Assocation Community Group AwardsA total of 37 local organisations have benefitted from Lochaber Housing Association’s 25th Anniversary Community Fund - each of them receiving a grant of between £100 and £200 at a special ceremony at Fort William Rural Complex.

The wide-ranging beneficiaries of the fund – launched by Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) to mark 25 years of providing quality homes for local residents throughout Lochaber – range from children’s organisations and sports groups to activity groups for the elderly and disabled and community horticultural and regeneration schemes.

The Lochaber Housing Association 25th Anniversary Community Fund was established to provide grants of up to £200 to eligible community groups - including community councils, residents’ associations, clubs and sports groups – as part of LHA’s commitment to reinvest profits into the local community.

A total of £7000 was made available for this fund through the “Lochaber 365” private sector initiative run by Lochaber Housing Association Property Services – the association’s community interest company.

Lochaber 365 is a 24 hour all-trades works and maintenance service which is available to homes and businesses throughout Lochaber. The service, which is free to join, provides a high quality service and after care, with all works carried out by Lochaber Housing Association’s own all trades team.

The Association, established in 1988 to provide affordable housing and services in Lochaber, also recently launched the Monsignor Wynne Good Neighbour Award as part of its “jubilee” celebrations
Lochaber Housing Association Chairperson Di Alexander said: ‘We are absolutely delighted, in our 25th anniversary year, to be able to connect in this way with the community of voluntary organisations, charities, trusts, associations, clubs and societies that are the very fabric of our Lochaber communities.
“And it is very apt that we do so, because we at the housing association have prided ourselves, throughout all of our 25 years, on being part of our Lochaber communities too, and have been able to provide affordable housing all over our part of the west highlands. We wish all of the groups that we have been able to help in this small way all the best in the very important work they do.”

Organisations awarded a grant include: Plantation Community Association, Lochaber Street League, Lochaber Artistic Roller Skating Club, Lochaber Phoenix Boxing Club, Caol Regeneration Company Ltd., Caol Duke of Edinburgh Award Group, The Music Shed, Lochaber Young at Heart Group, Lochaber Judo Club, Lochaber Camanachd, Fort William Cricket Club, Kilmallie Playgroup, Arisaig Sailing Club, Corpach in Colour, 1st Kilmallie Rainbow Guides, Banavie Floral Improvements, Kilmallie Christmas Lights Fund and Kilmallie Christmas Tree Fund.

Other recipients include: Greenfingers, Fort William “Falcons” Netball Club, Upper Achintore Regeneration Group, Kinlochleven Community Trust, Lochaber Foodbank, Lochaber Sea Cadets, 10th Lochaber Strontian Beavers/Cubs/Scouts, Alibabas Toddler Group, Glengarry Centre Support in Mind Scotland, Shopmobility Lochaber,
Lochaber Rural Education Trust, Highland Communities Credit Union, Arisaig Parent Teacher Association, Kilmallie Free Church, Lochaber Jog Scotland, Lochaber Schools Pipe Band, Knoydart Foundation, Knoydart Forest Trust and Kilmallie Community Centre.

25th Anniversary Celebration - Lochaber Housing Association Achieves Investors In People Gold Accreditation

IPP AwardIn its 25th Anniversary Year, Lochaber Housing Association has achieved the prestigious Investors in People Gold Accreditation, the most successful framework for business improvement through people in the UK. This represents achievement of world class best practice. It shows Lochaber Housing Association is a truly cutting-edge organisation that is operating at the very highest levels of people management practice using Investors in People to drive their business forward.

Lochaber Housing Association joins an exclusive group of UK employers eligible to use and display the sought after Investors in People Gold logo and plaque, and enjoy its benefits. The accreditation applies to all three of the Lochaber Housing Association group of companies – the Association itself, and its subsidiaries - Lochaber Care & Repair and LHA Property Services.

Commenting on the award, Blair Allan, Lochaber Housing Association’s Chief Executive said, “What a magnificent way in which to celebrate our 25th Anniversary year! There are over 1100 IIP accredited organisations in Scotland. Less than 6% of these have Gold status. Only 10 other housing associations in Scotland have been recognised at this level, and none of these, to the best of my knowledge until now, are in the Highlands and Islands. So, to be awarded this accreditation at this level is a tremendous achievement and a testament to how all the people in this group of companies work together through change, growth and improvement to deliver success”.  

Peter Russian, Chief Executive of Investors in People Scotland, said “This is a fantastic achievement for Lochaber Housing Association and its associated companies. I would like to congratulate the organisation and its people on their commitment to continuous improvement. Investors in People offers a flexible, practical and easy to use business improvement tool designed to help organisations and their people achieve their objectives. I hope that more organisations in the area will be encouraged to sharpen their competitive edge by choosing to work with us.”

About Investors in People

Investors in People offer a practical, flexible and easy to use tool for improving business performance and competitiveness through good practice in people strategy.

An organisation that has achieved Investors in People has been successful in adopting and maintaining its three fundamental principles: Plan - developing strategies to improve the performance of the organisation, from business goals to leadership strategies; Do - implementing those strategies, taking action to improve the performance of the organisation; Review - evaluating and adjusting those strategies, measuring their impact on the performance of the organisation.

For more information on Investors in People please visit www.iipscotland.co.uk

Lochaber Housing Association announces community awards as part of Jubilee Celebrations

To mark 25 years of providing quality homes for local residents throughout Lochaber, Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) has planned a number of new initiatives to underline the association’s continued support of local communities.

The Association, established in 1988 to provide affordable housing and services in Lochaber, will kick off its “jubilee” celebrations with the launch of the Monsignor Wynne Good Neighbour Award, and the Lochaber Housing Association 25th Anniversary Community Fund.

Named after LHA’s first chairman, the Monsignor Wynne Good Neighbour Award aims to recognise an individual who has made a real difference to his/her local community.

Anyone associated with Lochaber Housing Association - either as a tenant, as a sharing owner or who lives in a factored property – can nominate a good neighbour.

The person being nominated does not have to have any connection to Lochaber Housing Association, and the winner will be presented with the Monsignor Wynne quaich and gift vouchers at LHA’s AGM in September. The award will be made annually.

Blair Allan, LHA’s Chief Executive, said: “This is your chance to say a big thank you to a kind and caring person who has made a difference to the local community with their acts of kindness.

"This may be someone who has helped you with your garden or shopping when you couldn`t get out, helped out at a time of crisis or been there when you just needed someone to talk to. Or maybe this would apply to someone who has helped out with your children or is just, generally, a good neighbour."

The Lochaber Housing Association 25th Anniversary Community Fund will provide grants of up to £200 to eligible community groups - including community councils, residents’ associations and clubs such as scouts or sports groups – as part of LHA’s commitment to reinvest profits into the local community.

A total of £5000 has been made available for this fund through the "Lochaber 365" private sector initiative run by Lochaber Housing Association Property Services – the association’s community interest company.

Lochaber 365 is a 24 hour all-trades works and maintenance service which is available to homes and businesses throughout Lochaber. The service, which is free to join, provides a high quality service and after care, with all works carried out by Lochaber Housing Association’s own all trades team.

The deadline for all applications to the LHA 25th Anniversary Community Fund is the end of May. Contact the association on 01397 702530 for more details.

Click here to download Community Application Form

Lochaber Housing Association AGM 2012

AGM 2012Lochaber Housing Association (LHA) remains committed to helping Lochaber people find good, locally affordable solutions to their housing problems – although the current economic climate means that the Association has no plans to start any new developments in the foreseeable future.

The Association’s AGM heard on Friday (7th September 2012) that we had successfully completed developments at Achariach and Dun Deardail in Claggan and Lochyside, bringing a total of 42 new rental and 11 shared equity homes to Fort William - and a new rental home in the former old school, Acharacle.

However, the meeting heard that the situation looks less rosy in the immediate future as a result of the imposition of increasingly restrictive lending conditions by the Association’s lenders, while its grant per home built from the Scottish Government has been halved over the past two years.

Describing the new lending conditions “bedevilling” the Association’s efforts as “impracticable”, LHA chairperson Di Alexander said: “In February of this year the Association’s Board took the very difficult but unavoidable decision to build no more houses in Lochaber for the foreseeable future, i.e. until such funding restrictions can be lifted.”

He added: “We will continue to raise the funding dilemma with the key politicians in the hope that Government can get the banks lending sensibly again. We will continue to champion the cause of inadequately housed people in Lochaber and to work in close partnership with Highland Council and other housing associations and stakeholders to try and secure as many new and affordable housing opportunities for Lochaber as the present ‘system’ is capable of delivering in these testing times.”

On a more positive note, the AGM heard of the continued success of LHA’s subsidiary companies Lochaber Care & Repair and Lochaber Housing Association Property Services (LHAPS).

Lochaber Care & Repair has been steadily expanding to provide a comprehensive home improvement and handyperson service to Lochaber’s elderly and disabled residents, through partnerships with Highland Council and NHS Highland. Meanwhile, LHAPS – a community interest company – has created five trade apprenticeships and generated more than £250,000 of surpluses for reinvestment by the Association. Building on this success, the recently launched “Lochaber 365” initiative has seen the LHAPS quality maintenance and repair service extended to businesses and owner occupiers throughout Lochaber.

Danny Alexander MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was the principal guest and speaker at the AGM. Mr Alexander spoke of his interest in the work and success of the Association over the years and of his disappointment in the approach of lenders to supporting its valuable work.

He said that he hoped the Coalition government’s new policy to offer government guarantees of up to £10 billion to support the building of new homes by housing associations could be taken up by the Scottish government and rolled out to housing associations north of the border.

Blair Allan, LHA’s Chief Executive said: “We were absolutely delighted that the Chief Secretary was able to support our AGM in this way and he had a lot to say about how important housing associations like ours are to the recovery of the economy. We were really interested in his guarantee scheme and we wait with interest to see whether this is something that could be rolled out in Scotland.”

Despite the current challenges, Lochaber Housing Association – which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year – continues to make quality homes available to new, first-time tenants at the rate of around 50 re-lets each year and the Annual Report, launched at the AGM, reveals a continued commitment to maintenance of our properties with just over £1 million spent during the 2011/2012 period.

Christmas Card Competition Winner 2011

Christmas Card WinnerThe Association welcomed the very deserving winner in our popular Design a Christmas Card competition to our offices on the 24th November.

This year for the first time a pupil from Lady Lovat Primary school, Heather Nicolson - a primary 4 pupil produced the winning design. Heather and the rest of her school visited Printsmith to watch the card in production as part of the prize.

Heather was presented with a framed copy of her design and a gift by staff members Irene Christie and Alistair Kennedy. Heather said “I was absolutely thrilled to have my design chosen for the Lochaber Housing Association Christmas Card. My prizes were super. My picture is up on my living room wall so that everyone can see it”.

The Association staff were delighted to attend a very melodic concert performed by the children, who entertained by playing recorders, tin whistles, guitars and the clarsach.
Head Teacher Maureen Sutherland commented “The pupils had a wonderful day visiting Printsmith and the Lochaber Housing Association Offices. The staff were so generous of their time. We all had a wonderful day out”.

The association also passed a small donation to each school for taking part.

Chief Executive Blair Allan thanked all the schools who took part and especially thanked Printsmith for welcoming the children into their workshop.

New Claggan Properties

ClagganOn the 17th October 2011 the new residents of Achariach and Dun Deardail were handed the keys to their brand new properties in Claggan.

The new developments had been built on land once occupied by Fort William Fire Brigade and NEWCO a local manufacturing company. The developments were made up of 24 affordable social rented properties and 6 LIFT New supply Shared Equity low cost home ownership.

Local architect David Mee designed the dramatic development and UBC built the homes.
Finance for the two developments which cost over £4 million to build came from the Scottish Government and the Association.

The affordable social rented properties were allocated to applicants of the Highland Housing Register.
To mark the new development all residents’ names were placed in a hat with two winning residents receiving a festive hamper each. Emma Sangster and Mr & Mrs Turner were the winning recipients, all of whom expressed their thanks to the Association for providing them with lovely homes in the development.

Pictured are Emma Sangster and her daughter Lacey and Mrs Turner with Housing Officers David MacLaren & Irene Christie.

LOCHABER CREDIT UNION SCHEME

Credit UnionOn the first of September 2011, Lochaber Housing Association together with Highland Communities Credit Union have rolled out an exciting new scheme to help tenants plan their finances in a more positive way.

Every Thursday will see an advice worker from Highland Communities Credit Union occupy interview space in the Association offices between 10am – 4.00pm offering expert financial advice for our tenants.

In addition to this service, the Association has also become a designated collection point where Highland Communities Credit Union members can deposit money.

LHA Chief Executive Blair Allan said “the project is aimed at reducing financial exclusion for our tenants. By providing increased opportunities for debt management as well as easily accessible ways to save and an opportunity to access loans at reasonable rates we feel that this is a clear route to income maximisation for our tenants.”

Pictured are Sheree Kennedy of Lochaber Housing Association and Ellen Edwards and Jane MacLean from Highland Communities Credit Union.

LOCHABER HOUSING ASSOCIATION AGM 2011

The Ball Family and Isla GrayLochaber Housing Association (LHA) has managed to complete two new developments – totalling 24 new homes at Heathercroft, Fort William (21 rental) and Donald Row, Morar (3 rental) - despite facing unprecedented funding difficulties during 2010/2011 as a result of public sector spending cuts.

Speaking at the organisation’s AGM, held at Caol Community Centre on Monday on Monday 12th September 2011, LHA Chairperson Di Alexander reported “a difficult year” for the affordable housing sector, with the situation unlikely to improve over the coming financial year.

The Association’s Annual Report 2011, launched at the AGM, reveals a total capital expenditure on housing development of £4,697,776 to 31st March 2011, compared with £5,159,564 to 31st March 2010.

Outlining the challenges facing Lochaber Housing Association in the current economic climate, Mr Alexander said:
“In the face of public sector spending cuts, the budget for housing has decreased significantly. So much so that it remains to be seen if the Association will be awarded any money at all for new development this year – though we remain hopeful.

“As well as reducing the available funds for affordable housing, the Scottish Government has announced significantly reduced grant levels for each individual unit of accommodation. We are doing our very best to engage with this restricted funding regime for the benefit of those inadequately housed people of Lochaber and I am confident that the Association will continue to be progressive and innovative in its approach to meeting the needs of our communities and in maintaining flexibility within an ever-changing environment.”

Despite the downturn in funding for new development projects, however, LHA has enjoyed continuing improvement to the housing management and maintenance services developed by the association in response to tenant demand, and has recorded an overall approval rating of 90% in a recent Tenant Satisfaction Survey.

“This is welcome confirmation that we are providing the kind of quality service and value for money that we can be proud of,” Mr Alexander told the AGM. “However, the survey did point to the need for improvement in a few areas and the Board of Management has approved an action plan to take these forward.”

Subsidiary companies Lochaber Care & Repair and LHA Property Services – both now well-established - continue to enable Lochaber Housing Association to provide the best possible value for money for tenants and owner occupiers, while providing training and employment opportunities for young apprentices. A total of £545,823 was spent on major and cyclical repairs during the past financial year, while a further £344,460 was committed to reactive repairs.

Projects due to commence on site or be completed during 2011/12 include 22 homes at the former industrial unit, Claggan, Fort William (8 rented, 4 shared equity); eight homes at the former Fire Station, Claggan (6 rented, 2 shared equity); 23 homes at Lochyside, Fort William (18 rented, 5 shared equity) and one home for rent at the Former Primary School, Acharacle. Future projects in the pipeline include developments at Strontian, Kinlochleven, Inchree and Lochyside & Heathercroft in Fort William.

Pictured are Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and LHA Chairperson Di Alexander.

THE ASSOCIATION WELCOMES ISLA BALL TO HER NEW HOME

The Ball Family and Isla GrayLochaber Housing Association recently celebrated the completion of a new affordable 21 flat housing development at Fort William.  The new residents, who had been allocated their homes through the Highland Housing Register, were handed the keys to their homes on 13th September.  The development named Mull & Iona Court had been completed by West Highland Properties at a cost of £2.8 million, with funding coming from the Scottish Government and Lochaber Housing Association.

The development consists of 15 two bedroom flats, 5 three bedroom flats and 1 two bedroom flat for the disabled.  Heating is provided by electric storage heaters, while water heating is provided by solar panels and electric immerser.

The first baby born in the development is Isla Marie who was born on the 21st September 2010 and we thought it only fitting that she be presented with a gift from our own Isla Gray who is the Association’s Operations Manager.

Isla said “I am delighted to be able to present baby Isla with a gift from Lochaber Housing Association, and I hope that she and her family will be very happy in their new home”.

The Ball family lived locally before receiving the keys to their new home in Mull Court.

Photographed are Operations Manager, Isla Gray presenting gifts to the Ball family.

Christmas Competition Winner 2010

Christmas Card Competition Winner 2009The Association welcomed the very deserving winner in our popular design a Christmas Card competition to our offices on the 22nd November.

The competition is now in its 5th year and for the second time a pupil from Mallaig Primary delivered the winning entry. Jodie Gray - a primary 3 pupil - and her classmates from Mallaig Primary visited Printsmith to watch the card in production as part of the prize.

Jodie was presented with a framed copy of her design and a gift by staff members Maureen Cameron and Maggie Mackenzie. During the tour of the offices after the children had enjoyed a very welcome “juice and cake break” they entertained staff with a selection of songs that they have been learning for their carol concert.

All the other schools who take part were given a donation to funds for their Christmas party.

Jenny MacKay from the Association thanked everyone who took part in the competition but added that every year the standard seems to be getting higher making the job of the judges very difficult.

Lochaber Housing Association AGM 2010

AGM 2010The establishment of subsidiary company Lochaber Housing Association Property Services (LHAPS)  has proved a major success according to the housing association’s annual report, released at its AGM on  Monday 13th September.

And a particular highlight for the innovative in-house maintenance company has been the appointment of four local young people as apprentices – a move described by Lochaber Housing Association chairperson Alison Gainsford, in her introduction to the annual report, as “a success story by anyone’s standards”.

Following a strategic review which demonstrated that Lochaber Housing Association could make significant savings – and improve the service provided to tenants - the non-charitable subsidiary company was set up to carry out activities which the Association, as a charity, could not.

Now registered as a Community Interest Company. LHAPS comprises an in-house team of nine qualified and experienced tradespeople – two joiners, two plumbers, two painters, an electrician and two labourers – as well as the four new apprentices. The new company has enabled Lochaber Housing Association to report significant savings in providing repair and maintenance services (both planned and reactive) – money which will be ploughed back into the association to support even more improvements to tenants’ homes. Over the coming year, the Association plans to spend just over £740,000 on its planned maintenance programme, which will include 60 kitchen renewals, 49 heating system replacements and 19 new bathrooms, as well as external painting work.

Alison Gainsford said: “The establishment of our new subsidiary community interest company has been one of the most innovative and progressive developments at the Association for some time.”

Ms Gainsford revealed that in its first few months of operation LHAPS  had achieved “real savings” as well as  providing “a greater measure of control on the quality of service being offered, with positive tenant feedback reaching the highest levels ever.”

She added: “That’s not the best bit, though. In the early part of 2010, despite the economic downturn and all the gloom around the credit crunch, the company has still been able to realise its ambition of offering apprentice training positions to four local young people – a success story by anyone’s standards.”

However, the chairperson’s report also revealed that it has been “another frustrating year” in terms of the uncertainty surrounding Lochaber Housing Association’s future role in the development of new build affordable housing for the area.

Ms Gainford said: “Not everything about the past year can be reported in such a positive light. I refer to the continuing uncertainties in connection with our ability to develop new build housing under the grant regime introduced by the government in April 2008 and revised in February 2009. We have been in dialogue with government officials and the Minister throughout this period to try to secure some improvement to the viability of the grant calculations from our perspective. These discussions have not yet borne fruit.”

She added: “The Association very much wants to continue to develop. We strongly believe that our base in Lochaber communities has been instrumental in expediting the effective delivery of affordable new build housing throughout Lochaber since our inception in 1988. So, we are still hopeful that with the support of government we will be able to continue to play an effective part in the delivery of sustainable affordable housing in Lochaber.”

The Association’s Annual Report reveals a total capital expenditure on housing development of £5,159,564 to 31st March 2010. Two housing developments - totalling 25 new homes - were completed in 2009/2010, including 19 homes for rent and two shared equity home at Canon Gillies Place, Arisaig, and five shared equity homes at Glenloch View, Achintore Road, Fort William.

Projects due to complete in 2010/11 include 21 homes for rent at Heathercroft, Upper Achintore, Fort William, and three homes for rent at Glenancross, Morar. Other projects about to get underway include homes at Claggan, Acharacle and Lochyside.

PETITION FOR MORE AFFORDABLE HOMES IN LOCHABER

ShelterOn Monday September 13, 2010 Shelter Scotland and Lochaber Housing Association called on the Scottish Government to support the building of more affordable homes in Lochaber.

Shelter Scotland and the Association campaigned in Cameron Square asking local people to sign a petition to put pressure on the Government to ensure housing becomes a priority.

Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, the housing and homelessness charity said:

“Because everyone needs a home, we need to make housing a national priority for the Scottish Government’s upcoming budget. The people in the local area want building more affordable homes, protecting and refurbishing those we already have and preventing homelessness to be at the heart of the political agenda.

“We are delighted The Highland Council and Lochaber Housing Association are working with us to help generate support for our call to build more affordable homes in the local area and across Scotland.

“In the Highland area there are over 9,000 households stuck on the Highland Housing Register, but there is a dire shortage of homes available.”

Blair Allan, Chief Executive Lochaber Housing Association said:

“Our overall aim is to provide suitable housing to address local housing needs. We pride ourselves in developing good quality, affordable housing for local people.

“We have made a joint effort with Shelter Scotland to raise awareness of the need for more affordable housing and were calling on local residents to back our campaign.”

ANNUAL GARDEN COMPETITION

Garden Competition WinnersThe Association has, for the fifth year, held its very successful annual gardening competition.

David Cottier, Development Manager of the Association and Jean Sinclair from the Associations Board of Management , toured Lochaber, viewing entries at the beginning of August.

Our winning garden belonged to Maureen McSherry from Roy Bridge with Rosemary Whitfield from Inverlochy picking up the top prize in the best tubs category.

Both winners received certificates and gift tokens for a local garden centre.

Pictured at our Annual General Meeting is Rosemary Whitfield receiving her gift tokens by Vice Chair, John Macleod.

Lochaber Housing Association welcomes four apprentices to in-house maintenance service

ApprenticesLochaber Housing Association has welcomed four new apprentices to its in-house Property Services team.

Jamie MacArthur and Ross MacKenzie, both from Fort William, have taken up joinery and plumbing apprenticeships, respectively.  Donald Pearce from Kinlochleven will train as an electrician while Stuart Donaldson from Inverlochy becomes an apprentice painter.

There were 64 applications for the apprenticeships, and the four young men selected each had to pass a skills exam set by the relevant training body to assess whether they were competent enough to complete the necessary college courses, which will begin this September.

The four-year apprenticeships were an important element of Lochaber Housing Association’s decision to set up its subsidiary company, Property Services, just over a year ago in a bid to ensure an improved service for tenants - as well as projected savings of £500,000 for the Association over a five year period.

Following a strategic review of LHA’s financial strategy,  it was decided the association’s maintenance service – previously provided by outside contractors –  should be delivered by an in-house team of qualified trades people, comprising two joiners, two plumbers, two labourers, two painters and an electrician.

The service includes two teams: one to carry out planned maintenance, eg replacing kitchens and bathrooms, and the other - the “reactive” maintenance team – to respond to requests for day to day repairs. Based at a unit on the Claggan Industrial Estate, the two teams are overseen by LHA Maintenance Manager Sean Doherty - supported by Maintenance Supervisor Alistair Kennedy and Maintenance Co-ordinator, Sheena Coull.

LHA director Blair Allan said: “When we established the Property Services team it was our intention to provide a number of apprenticeships across the trades, enabling LHA to contribute to the local community and economy while continuing to develop its service.

“It’s wonderful that we are able to keep re-investing in the Housing Association stock for the benefit of tenants but the really pleasing aspect is being able to create employment opportunities for young people. In the context of a recession when most people are retracting their businesses we are fortunate to be in the position to expand ours and create jobs.”

He added: “Lochaber Housing Association is now registered as a Community Interest Company, which means we can carry out activities which benefit the wider community - not just the company - such as offering employment to local young people through apprenticeships.

“As well as providing a top quality service, the in-house maintenance service has been running profitably and all savings made as a result – expected to be in the region of £500,000 over the next five years - will be ploughed back into the association to enable continued improvements to the maintenance of tenants’ properties.”

LHA Property Services is scheduled to complete around £950,000 of repairs (both planned and reactive) during the 2010/2011 period.

Arisaig residents move into new homes in time for Christmas

Arisaig residents“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” for residents allocated new properties within Lochaber Housing Association’s £3.5 million Canon Gillies Place development at Arisaig, who are looking forward to moving into their new homes in time for the festive season.

Lochaber Housing Association’s 20-home development at Arisaig – named in honour of the late Canon Iain Gillies, who was parish priest at St Mary’s, Kilmory, for almost 20 years – has provided much-needed housing for a wide cross-section of the local population.

Following a brief delay in completion, new residents are now starting to move into the well-appointed properties at Canon Gillies Place, which include 16 homes available for affordable rental, and four homes (two two-bedroom and two three-bedroom) available under the L.I.F.T shared equity low cost home ownership initiative. A further two plots within the development have been made available under the Rural Home Ownership Grant (RHOG) scheme.

The affordable housing development consists of four two-bedroom single storey homes (suitable for elderly residents), six two-bedroom houses, and six three-bedroom houses. Funding for the project was provided by the Scottish Government, in partnership with Lochaber Housing Association.

Located to the west of the village - on a hillside overlooking Loch nan Ceall, with views of the Rhu peninsula and the isles of Eigg and Muck - the new housing development is situated close to village amenities including the shop and local primary school.

Lochaber Housing Association Director Blair Allan said he was delighted that the association had been able to meet the challenge of providing suitable accommodation to address local housing needs in Arisaig.

He added: “The Association shared the concerns of many local people who were aware that the properties appeared to be completed for some time before they were finally occupied.

“However, while this appeared to be the case, there were a number of outstanding defects that we were anxious to have rectified before we accepted the properties from the contractor. Some issues remain outstanding but we are working with the contractor and our consultants to ensure these are addressed with the minimum of disruption to tenants”.

Canon Iain Gillies, known locally as Father Iain, was parish priest at Kilmory from 1964 – 1983. He remains a fondly-remembered figure throughout the area, and is credited – among other things – with helping to bring TV to Arisaig, as well as designing and creating beautiful church furniture which can still be found throughout the diocese.

Pictured are Mr & Mrs Maclean who were presented with a hamper after moving into their new home in Canon Gillies Place.

Christmas Competition Winner 2009

Christmas Card Competition Winner 2009The Association again played host to a Lochaber primary school. Nicole Farrell and her class mates from Duror Primary School visited local company Printsmith at the Nevis Bank Industrial Estate to watch Nicole’s winning design turned into the Association’s Christmas card 2009.

Primary schools throughout Lochaber had entered the competition which is now in its fourth year. The standard remains high with staff at the Association faced with the difficult decision to find only one winner.

Our website will show some of the runners up in "the gallery".

The children and their teachers then visited LHA’s offices for juice and cakes, Sheena and Irene, both staff members, took the children for an informative tour around the offices, during which they met Santa and his helper who were happy to pose for photos. As a prize Nicole received her Christmas card framed and an art set. Nicole was happy to receive her presents, the art set would be very useful as she attends an art class weekly.

At the end of the visit the children by way of thanks sang a beautiful version of Silent Night and a song from the play that they will be performing at Christmas.

Lochaber Housing Association launches in-house maintenance service

Property ServicesLochaber Housing Association’s brand new subsidiary company - Property Services was launched this week in a bid to ensure an improved service for tenants - as well as projected savings of £500,000 for the Association over the next five years.

Following a two-year strategic review of LHA’s overall financial strategy,  it was decided the association’s maintenance service – previously provided by outside contractors –  should be delivered by an in-house team of qualified trades people, comprising two joiners, two plumbers, two labourers and an electrician.

The new service will include two teams: one to carry out planned maintenance, eg replacing kitchens and bathrooms, and the other - the “reactive” maintenance team – to respond to requests for day to day repairs. Based at a unit on the Claggan Industrial Estate, the two teams will be overseen by LHA Maintenance Manager Sean Doherty - supported by Maintenance Supervisor Alistair Kennedy and Maintenance Co-ordinator, Sheena Coull.

LHA Chair Alison Gainsford, explained: “Repairing and maintaining our tenants’ properties is one of the most important services we provide as a landlord. It is crucial that we provide a top quality service which represents value for money.

“We believe that by directly employing skilled trades people within our own company, we can ensure that we provide tenants with the highest quality repairs service, meet our strict targets for completing repairs on time and reduce our maintenance spend while increasing value for money.

“The new service will also enable us to arrange suitable morning or afternoon appointments for tenants, while allowing for a more proactive approach to maintaining home, such as testing smoke alarms, oiling window mechanisms and locks and immediately carrying out any additional repairs which come to light during a visit to a tenant’s home. We are aiming to complete works in more houses, more quickly, at less cost to our tenants.”

She added: “It is also intended that the reactive repairs team would carry out small scale inspections of properties to identify future works, which can then be planned for completion during less busy periods, eg. if a garden gate was seen to be coming towards the end of its lifespan, its replacement could be planned, thereby giving less inconvenience to the tenant.”

There are also plans to employ painters for cyclical work from 2010, as well as providing apprenticeships across the trades in the near future, enabling LHA to contribute to the local community and economy while continuing to develop its service.

Savings made as a result of the new scheme – expected to be in the region of £500,000 over the next five years - will be ploughed back into the association to enable continued improvements to the service. Tenants will also benefit from the security of knowing all LHA Property Services’ staff will wear a uniform, drive liveried vans and carry personal ID.

Maintenance Manager Sean Doherty said: “These are exciting times for Lochaber Housing Association. I am confident that our tenants will notice continuing improvements in our repairs service.”

LHA Property Services is a subsidiary of Lochaber Housing Association, which celebrated its 21st anniversary this year, and will be registered as a Community Interest Company, meaning it can carry out activities which benefit the wider community not just the company.

Lochaber Housing Association marks 21st Anniversary at AGM

AGMAs it celebrated its 21st anniversary, Lochaber Housing Association remains committed to providing “good quality, truly affordable housing opportunities and services for local people in their preferred communities,” the organisation’s AGM heard on Monday 14th September 2009.

And, despite a reduction in “development ambitions” during 2008/09 due to funding constraints, the Association has continued to see improvements across its housing management and maintenance services – including the establishment of a subsidiary company to carry out maintenance for the association “in-house” - as well as completion of several new-build developments throughout the area.

Speaking at the AGM, Chairperson Alison Gainsford said: “Our principal strategic objective is to supply increasing numbers of high quality affordable housing solutions throughout Lochaber.  Regrettably, for the first time in the Association’s 21 year history, we have felt that we have not completely fulfilled this important objective.

“This has been because of a government decision … to amend the way in which it calculated the amount of private finance that housing associations have to borrow for each new home we develop. This would, in our view, result in unsustainable levels of borrowing for the Association. We would need to either inject the Association’s cash reserves into development activity or to cross-subsidise development using our housing stock over which no security for borrowing has been taken. Both of these alternatives have been considered by the Board of Management to be incompatible with the need to ensure that we retain sufficient reserves to support our long-term planned maintenance obligations to tenants.”

However, despite the funding cuts, Ms Gainsford revealed that the Board of Management had decided to seek government approval to develop a limited number of new homes – 42 in total – during 2009/10, subject to being able to secure private finance on acceptable terms, and said a recent meeting with the Minister for Housing and Communities had been “very positive”, with the result that the Minister had established a joint working party to seek solutions to the funding crisis.

“The Board of Management therefore remains hopeful that a way forward can be found that enables the Association to continue developing affordable rented housing opportunities in the communities it has served for the last 21 years,” she added.

The Association’s Annual Report 2009, launched at the AGM, reveals a total capital expenditure on housing development of £3,814,393 during 2008/09.

Five housing developments, totaling 29 new homes, were completed, including 16 homes for rent at Kings Way, Mallaig; four homes for rent at Old Banavie Road, Banavie (Former police house); two homes for rent at Kilmallie Road, Caol (Former police house); three homes for rent at Union Road, Fort William (Former police house) and four homes for rent at Lochyside, Fort William. A further 22 homes at Arisaig (16 rented, 4 shared equity, 2 RHOG plots) and 5 homes for shared equity at Achintore Road, Fort William, are due to be completed in the near future.

Projects due to commence on site in 2009/10 include 21 homes for rent at Heathercroft, Upper Achintore, Fort William; 22 homes at the former industrial unit, Claggan, Fort William (15 rented, 7 shared equity); three homes for rent at Glenancross, Morar and two homes for rent at the Former Primary School, Acharacle, while future projects in the pipeline include developments at Strontian, Kinlochleven, Spean Bridge, Inchree and Lochyside & Inverlochy in Fort William.

Following the formal business, the AGM heard a presentation from Di Alexander, the Association’s longest standing and original committee member, about the Association’s “Beginnings”, followed by some personal reflections from special guest Monsignor Wynne about his time as the Association’s first Chairperson.

Chairperson Alison Gainsford, Di Alexander and Monsignor Wynne are pictured above cutting a cake to mark the Association’s 21st Anniversary.

Minister visits Lochaber Housing Association

Minister visits Lochaber Housing AssociationOn a visit to Fort William this week, Scotland's housing minister couldn't promise any new money for developments – but he did promise to return in November to review progress.

Alex Neil was in Lochaber on Tuesday to highlight a project to help community-based housing associations keep developing affordable homes.

And he vowed to return later this year to review the progress of a newly-created joint working party including Scottish Government officials, Highland Council, Lochaber Housing Association, Lochalsh and Skye Housing Association and Pentland Housing Association. After cuts to the Housing Association Grant (HAG) created a funding deficit – putting on hold some schemes to create low-cost rented and shared equity homes in Lochaber – the group must look for solutions. Lochaber Housing Association has been concerned about the viability of working with the revised HAG levels since May last year. It says that given the levels of private finance now needed per unit for new build, there is little prospect of developing and still remaining viable.

Speaking after Mr Neil's meeting with council and housing association representatives, Lochaber Housing Association director Blair Allan said: "We had a very positive discussion with Alex Neil. As well as initiating the joint working party, he's agreed to come back to Fort William in early November to review its progress." He underlined his view that he sees an ongoing role for all three housing associations in the area to create new-build affordable homes. "Although he hasn't promised us any new money we did feel the minister understood our position and that he is willing to work with us."

Before the meeting, Mr Neil visited Canon Gillies Place in Arisaig to see LHA's new £3.5 million development, due for completion in September. This affordable housing development – financed under the previous grant allocation rates – consists of 20 homes. Four of them were financed through the LIFT (Low-cost Initiative for First Time buyers) scheme, a recent government initiative. Two plots are also available for self-build projects under the rural home ownership grant scheme.

Mr Neil then visited a new private development at Glenloch View, on Achintore Road, Fort William, where Lochaber Housing Association have bought five properties from the developer Holme Park Developments Ltd. They will be sold on under the LIFT scheme.

Mr Neil said that across the Highlands, £32 million will be spent by the Scottish Government to help deliver 401 affordable homes in 2009-2010. At Arisaig, Mr Neil said: "This superb new development is great news for families in Lochaber looking for affordable rental housing, and low-cost home-ownership."

Official Opening of King’s Way, Mallaig, by Stewart Maxwell MSP, Minister for Communities and Sport

King's Way - Alison Gainsford LHA Chairperson, Blair Allan LHA Director, Charlie King and Minister for Communities and Sport Stewart Maxwell MSPLochaber Housing Association’s newest development – the £3.3 million King’s Way in Mallaig – was officially opened this week (Monday 25th August) by Minister for Communities and Sport, Stewart Maxwell MSP.

The long-awaited 16-home development, completed in January 2008, has been named after former local councillor Charlie King, who served the community as Highland councillor for Mallaig and the Small Isles for 23 years.

The affordable housing development consists of six two-bedroom houses, seven three-bedroom houses, and three specially adapted homes for tenants with special needs. Funding for the King’s Way project was provided through grants from Communities Scotland and Highland Council, as well as private finance from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Built on the exposed Coteachan hillside, the site initially posed considerable difficulties for The UBC Group, the development’s main contractors. And the wind and rain which plagued early ground-works at the development returned with a vengeance on the day of the official opening, forcing those present to quickly decamp to a nearby hotel.

Undeterred by the weather, however, the minister – a regular visitor to the Mallaig area – praised the quality of the new development and the hard work undertaken to provide "these marvellous new homes" for the area.

Describing rural housing as "a political hot potato", Mr Maxwell went on to give an assurance that the Scottish government" remains committed to ensuring housing in rural areas remains at the top of the political agenda."

Lochaber Housing Association Chairperson Alison Gainsford added that the Association was aware of the need to continue to seek land in Mallaig – a difficult task due to the topography of the area - in a bid to address the local waiting list for housing, which stood at 292 names prior to allocation of the King’s Way properties.

Speaking after the official opening ceremony, Charlie King said it was "a great honour" to have the new LHA development named after him.

"Mallaig has needed these houses for a long time and a lot of hard work, by a lot of people, has gone into bringing this development to fruition," he added. "This is an extremely well set-out site with houses built to a very high standard – let’s hope there are more to come like this!"

Work is now underway on Lochaber Housing Association’s 20-home development at nearby Arisaig.

 

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