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AGM 2017AGM 2017

Caol Community Centre again played host to our Annual General Meeting.

Lochaber Care & Repair Manager, Maureen Cameron, in her role as guest speaker gave an interesting and informative talk on "Living well with dementia".

Chairperson, Hugh Donaldson presented the annual publication "Tenant Talk" which had been produced in conjunction with members of Your Voice.

Minister's VisitMINISTER FOR HOUSING VISITS THE ASSOCIATION

Kevin Stewart, the Minister for Housing, arrived in Lochaber on the 26th July, visiting recently completed housing developments at Raasay Court and Belhaven Drive both in Fort William. 

The visit coincided with an announcement that plans to build at least 200 new affordable homes in Fort William are to progress following an award of a £1.2 million grant from the Scottish Government to the Association.

The site will develop a variety of mixed tenure homes for rent and private use, on the Association’s recently acquired site at Upper Achintore.

The grant, awarded through the Scottish Government’s Affordable Housing Supply Programme supports the government’s ambitious commitment of delivering 50,000 affordable homes including 35,000 for social rent by 2021.

The Minister said "We recognise the challenges of developing affordable housing in rural areas, so I’m delighted that our investment will help to make affordable housing a reality at this site.

"This grant will support the delivery of at least 200 new homes in Fort William and is a great example of how partnership working can deliver a range of homes to suit the needs of the local community.
“Increasing the supply of affordable homes across Scotland is a key commitment and vital to our ambition of tackling poverty and inequality in our society."

Blair Allan, our Chief Executive commented: “The Association has already built around fifty much needed homes for social rent at Upper Achintore in the last few years. However, this Scottish Government grant takes our potential investment in affordable housing here to a new level. Everyone knows that housing need in Fort William is intense.

“The opportunity here is that we can, in partnership with the Scottish Government, the Highland Council and others, go a significant way towards satisfying this need in the short to medium term. We are grateful to the Scottish Government for this support and for the confidence that it has shown in our ability to deliver.”

Councillor Allan Henderson, chair of the Highland Council’s places committee, added: “This is good news for Lochaber where there has been a shortage of affordable housing. The development is especially welcome given the regeneration of the Fort William Smelter and the new job opportunities coming to the area. It comes on top of the recent welcome Scottish Government investment which has enabled the council and their partners to deliver new affordable homes in Tweeddale Apartments, Raasay Court and Belhaven Drive.”

The Association works closely with our partners The Highland Small Communities Housing Trust and this partnership has enabled 17 families to access quality modern homes at Raasay Court, with a further 8 homes made available at Belhaven Drive.  In addition a further 4 houses were made available to buy under the shared equity scheme.
  
Both of these schemes were built by local contractor R.E Campbell of Spean Bridge.

Community FundCommunity Fund 2017

The Association is delighted to support the many local organisations who have applied this year to our ever popular Community Fund.

The Community Fund begun life in 2013 to commemorate the Association’s 25th Anniversary and to date we have awarded grants to organisations within the local community of just under £34,000.

Winning recipients of the Community fund were invited to attend our recent AGM to receive their cheques.

Our ability to support the local area through the Community Fund is only possible by the continued success of our Lochaber 365 initiative and the LHA Property Services team.

Christmas Card WinnerChristmas Card Winner 2016

The Association again played host to a Lochaber primary school in our Design a Christmas Card Competition.

Ellen Munro and her whole school all 23 pupils from Ardgour Primary School visited local company Printsmith at the Nevis Bank Industrial Estate to watch Ellen’s winning design turned into the Association’s Christmas card for 2016.

Primary schools throughout Lochaber had entered the competition which has been running since 2006. The standard remains high with staff at the Association faced with the difficult decision to find only one winner. See some of the runners up entries in the gallery ».

The children and their teacher then visited LHA’s offices for juice and cakes, Aileen Duncan and Alistair Kennedy, both staff members, took the children for an informative tour around the offices.

As a prize Ellen received her design framed and an art set.

The Association would like to thank our good friends at Printsmith for their contribution.

Community Fund Award Community Fund 2016

On behalf of the Association, the Chairperson presented cheques to the winning recipients of the Community Fund at the recent AGM.

The Community Fund had been established to provide grants of up to £200 to eligible community groups, as part of LHA Property Services’ commitment to reinvest its profits into the local community. The beneficiaries of the fund ranged from children’s organisations and sports groups to activity groups for the elderly and disabled and community, horticultural and regeneration schemes. To date, over £27,000 has been awarded through the Community Fund and a total of £6,000 was made available this year through the subsidiary company’s "Lochaber 365" private sector initiative.

AGM 2016News from our Annual General Meeting

More affordable homes for Lochaber

Lochaber Housing Association’s partnership with The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust pays dividends!

A total of 37 new affordable homes are currently under construction across Lochaber – with around 100 more planned over the next three years – thanks to the successful development partnership between Lochaber Housing Association and the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT).

Our Annual General Meeting delivered the welcome news that we have been on site, working on 37 new affordable homes in the outlying communities of Strontian and Kilchoan, as well as at Heathercroft and Lochyside (both in Fort William) and the new  tenants at Kilchoan have just received the keys to their new homes last week.

The encouraging news follows a financially challenging period which forced the Association – in common with other housing associations - to take the difficult decision to stop building new homes back in 2012.

Welcoming the successful development partnership with HSCHT, Hugh Donaldson, Chair of LHA, said: “Our current ambitions extend to delivering approximately 100 more affordable homes over the next three years.

“The Scottish Government has committed to providing sufficient grant support to deliver 50,000 new affordable homes across Scotland by 2020 and we – and the Highland Council – are determined to see that Lochaber plays its part.

“We will be reviewing our borrowing capacity once more and, with the help of Scottish Government advantageous funding terms – such as bond finance – we are hopeful that I will be able to confirm next year that we can deliver even more new affordable housing.”

LHA has a long-standing relationship with HSCHT in trying to develop and deliver innovative solutions to the affordable housing shortage in Lochaber, an arrangement formalised into a partnership agreement with the Trust in 2014.

We have also agreed a revised business plan over recent months, which includes the mission statement: “We will facilitate the provision and maintenance of good quality, truly affordable housing opportunities and services for our customers in their preferred communities, thereby helping to sustain and develop thriving communities throughout  Lochaber.”

Other good news shared at our AGM at Caol Community Centre included updates on the important role played by subsidiary companies Lochaber Care & Repair and LHA Property Services. 

Lochaber Care & Repair launched “Be@Home” during 2016 – a one-stop shop for people to access information and support to enable them to remain living independently and safely in their own homes for as long as possible. This service has been further supported by the development of a three-year Dementia Enablement Project (thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust) which helps people living with dementia to maintain independent living for as long as possible.

During 2015/16, LHA’s subsidiary company Lochaber Housing Association Property Services CIC carried out a programme of planned and cyclical maintenance costing just over £900,000. Works included installing new kitchens and bathrooms, new heating systems and upgrading insulation in properties throughout Lochaber, and repairing walls, fences and paths in the Plantation, Fort William.  LHAPS also carried out 14 major medical adaptations to tenants’ homes including installing level access showers, stairlifts and door entry systems.

50 affordable homes for Fort William

£2.5m charitable bond used to fund new homes.

50 affordable homes will be built in the Fort William area as a result of the Scottish Government investing over £2.5 million in charitable bonds. 
 
Charitable bonds are ethical financial products – no profit is taken by Allia, a social investment charity who issues the bonds on the Scottish Government’s behalf. Allia have provided Lochaber Housing Association with a loan of over £2 million.
 
The interest on the loan, over half a million pounds, is converted into a charitable donation, which the Scottish Government gives to housing associations for the construction of new social housing
 
There has been considerable success with previous charitable bonds that have been issued with total investments now over £40m. This seventh bond means we have now provided development finance for 581 affordable homes, and generated over £9m for charities of which £6.7m will go towards the construction of new social housing.
 
Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:
 
"Good quality, affordable housing is essential to help attract and retain people in Scotland’s remote and rural communities.
 
“We have committed to deliver 50,000 more affordable homes over the next five years, backed up with investment of more than £3 billion. Announcements such as this one today marks another step on road to delivering that pledge. 
 
“Innovative financing schemes such as charitable bonds play a major role in helping us deliver this major expansion in housing supply.  We invested £25 million last year and have committed to invest the same again this year and we remain the only Government in the UK to do so.
 
“Through these bonds we are also maintaining Scotland’s leadership in financial innovation, working with partners to deliver more for less public investment.”
 
Blair Allan, Chief Executive of Lochaber Housing Association, said:
 
“We are delighted to have secured access to this Scottish Government backed charitable bond. This sort of flexible and unsecured lending is ideal for a small housing association such as us, enabling the Association to continue to plan and deliver even greater numbers of affordable housing opportunities to address the area’s acute housing needs.
 
“Partnering with our Allia colleagues on this innovative funding model has been very straightforward, and we look forward to enjoying our continuing and productive working relationship with both them and the Scottish Government  into the future.”  
 
Phil Caroe, Director of Impact Finance at Allia, said:
 
“Following the success of last year’s charitable bond programme for Scotland, we’re delighted to have made the first allocation of this year’s funding to Lochaber Housing Association. Working together with the Scottish Government, Allia has now channelled over £40 million of investment into developing affordable housing across Scotland.”

Land Wanted

“Your Voice” is important to Lochaber Housing Association
Tenant Participation Exchange Visit underlines value of tenant input

Tenant Participation is at the heart of decision-making at Lochaber Housing Association – and the importance of giving a voice to tenants was highlighted during a recent forum held at the organisation’s Fort William office.

The Tenant Participation Exchange Visit saw staff and tenant representatives from Argyll Community Housing Association (ACHA) and City of Aberdeen Council join forces with local residents and LHA staff to share best practice.

LHA and ACHA have both established a “Your Voice” group to ensure tenants are involved with – and can influence - decision-making about association policies, housing conditions, rent increases, maintenance and repairs, services provided, etc.

Top of the agenda during the recent exchange visit was discussion of training for tenants in preparation for scrutinising policies.

David MacLaren, LHA Housing Officer, said: “Your Voice is our tenant and staff partnership and the exchange visit was designed to inform and support tenants who are involved in reviewing services within their respective landlord organisations.

“The day was an overwhelming success, with tenants feeling informed and ready for the challenges ahead.”

He added: “At Lochaber Housing Association, we consider it central to our service that tenants have plenty of opportunities to express their views about it in ways that they choose.

“We understand that the people for whom our service is provided may not want to be involved all the time, so tenants can choose how we contact them, and how much or little they would like to be involved. We are committed to ensuring that all our service users have the opportunity to get involved when and how they want.

Your Voice is an opportunity for tenants to let us know what they think about things that affect them, and what they would like to see changed. It is a two way process which involves sharing information, ideas and decision-making. When working well, tenant participation brings benefits to tenants, staff and the Association, including improved service delivery and better value for money.”

In 2015, the Lochaber Your Voice group worked in conjunction with LHA staff to produce information relating to antisocial behaviour, including advice about how to report incidents and what the Association can do to remedy the situation. The group was also actively involved in setting annual rents and agreeing the repairs and maintenance policy, as well as helping to produce the first “Tenant Talk” newsletter.

All Association tenants are eligible to join the Your Voice group, which regularly meets in the LHA offices at 101 High Street. Meetings are friendly and informal and travel expenses are paid to those attending. Click here for more information or to access a registration form. Alternatively, contact the Association on 01397 702530 or email info@lochaberhousing.org.uk.

Poor ventilation common in new, airtight homes with significant implications for ill health, new research demonstrates

Read More & Watch the Video »

Christmas Card Competition 2015

Card CompetitionThe Association again played host to a Lochaber primary school in our Design a Christmas Card Competition.

Francisco Narvaez and his primary 7 class mates from Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar visited local company Printsmith at the Nevis Bank Industrial Estate to watch Francisco’s winning design turned into the Association’s Christmas card for 2015.

Primary schools throughout Lochaber had entered the competition which has been running since 2006. The standard remains high with staff at the Association faced with the difficult decision to find only one winner.

Visit our Christmas card gallery to see the winning card and the runners up in our competition »

The children and their teacher then visited LHA’s offices for juice and cakes, Sheena Coull and Chelsea MacGillivray, both staff members, took the children for an informative tour around the offices.

As a prize Francisco received his design framed and an art set. 

The Association would like to thank our good friends at Printsmith for their contribution.

Lochaber Housing Association celebrates "another good and productive year"

The Association has enjoyed “another good and productive year” according to retiring chairman Di Alexander.

In his message to the Association’s Annual General Meeting, Mr Alexander, who has come to the end of his five year tenure as chairman, outlined a number of Lochaber–wide projects which LHA – in association with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT) – is currently involved with.

"I’m delighted to say that we are now about to start on four sites – three houses at Strontian, with 21 at Heathercroft, 10 in Lochyside (both Fort William) and three in Kilchoan," he said.

"In addition, HSCHT has built another three low cost home ownership houses on sites provided by the Association at Arisaig and will soon be building more in Mallaig and Strontian."

There was also some encouraging news on the financial front, with Mr Alexander revealing that the Association has recently secured a good deal with ethical lender the Charities Aid Foundation Bank.

"We also have high hopes that a new partnership initiative known as HARIS (The Housing Association Resource for Investment Scheme) will get off the ground and be able to lend us money," he added.

Finding improved financial deals such as these – following a challenging period which forced the Association to briefly stop building new properties - will enable the Association to continue building around 30 new homes a year for the next two financial years at least.

During 2014/15, LHA subsidiary company Lochaber Housing Association Property Services CIC spent more than £1 million on planned and cyclical repairs including new bathrooms for 58 homes, 32 new heating systems and painting, fencing and path repairs in a number of areas. A total of 14 major medical adaptations were also completed in tenants’ homes.

Over this period, tenants reported 100% satisfaction with the standard of their new home when moving in, with an overall satisfaction rating of 94% in relation to the repairs service.

Meanwhile, Lochaber Care and Repair – which also oversees the Handyperson service and manages the Community Aids and Equipment Service on behalf of NHS Highland – was selected by the Scottish Government as one of five sites which will test and develop new approaches for home adaptation services.

Paying tribute to those who have served on the Board of LHA over the years and helped achieve these various successes, Mr Alexander - who has been involved with the Association in one way or another since its inception in 1988 - said: "I would like to pay the warmest tribute to each and all of the good Lochaber folk who have journeyed to Board meetings from every airt of Lochaber to give freely and generously of their time and experience."

One of Di Alexander’s final tasks in his role as Chair of the Board of Management was presenting Housing Officer Irene Christie with an award to mark 20 years of working for the Association (see photo above).

Lochaber Credit Union Ltd and Inverness Credit Union Ltd have merged to form one new credit union, Highland Communities Credit Union Ltd.

Lochaber Credit Union Ltd has been serving its members in Lochaber for 16 years, while Inverness Credit Union Ltd has been running for 13 years. The two have been discussing a merger for a number of years now, and this was completed on the 1st of June 2015. The move has previously been approved by the membership of both credit unions at members’ meetings – a requirement because credit unions are financial co-operatives, 100% owned by their membership, with no outside shareholders.

The name Highland Communities Credit Union Ltd was chosen to reflect the fact that we have been formed from two existing community credit unions in Highland region, and that membership is open to all those living or working in Highland Region.

The merger is set to strengthen the two credit unions both financially, and in terms of the services that we are able to offer to members.

The new credit union will continue to offer a savings facility and low cost loans to its members, as well as free live savings protection on both savings and loans. In addition to these basic products, the credit union will be offering prepaid credit cards to members, and assistance dealing with the roll out of Universal Credit. Members will also have access to the members’ area of the website, allowing them to view up to date balances and download forms.

Highland Communities Credit Union Ltd will be run by a board of directors comprising board members from both Inverness and Lochaber credit unions. The organisation continues to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, and is a member of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Click here for more information »

Lochaber Housing Association and Lochaber Credit Union join forces to ease transition to “Universal Credit” payments

Lochaber Housing Credit UnionThe Association and Lochaber Credit Union (LCU) have joined forces to “engage” local residents in a new initiative aimed at making life easier following the introduction of Universal Credit payments.

The two organisations are encouraging LHA tenants to join the local Credit Union before Universal Credit - the new payment scheme which will replace a range of previous benefits, including Income Support, Job Seekers allowance, income related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits - is rolled out across the country.

Under the new scheme, claimants who receive assistance with their rent will have this included in their monthly Universal Credit payment and will be responsible for paying their landlord directly.

Marion Carr of Lochaber Credit Union explained: "Any help you get with your rent will be included in your Universal Credit payment and you’ll then pay your landlord yourself. I would like to encourage people to have their Universal Credit payment paid into a Lochaber Credit Union account. LCU will then ensure that your rent is paid to LHA and you can have the remainder of your benefit to spend as you choose.

"It is never too early to prepare for this change, so, why not join Lochaber Credit Union now? This will allow a smoother transition to the new benefit system."

She added: "On 14th May, we launched our new ENGAGE card - a prepaid card which can be loaded from your Credit Union account. You can only spend the amount you have loaded onto the card and can use it anywhere that takes Visa (and get cashback) or at an ATM.

"The engage card can be used by anyone with a credit union account – not just those receiving Universal Credit - and we hope it will give people more control over their finances."

A spokesperson at the Association said: "Universal Credit will involve direct payment of housing costs to the claimant and will be paid monthly as a single household benefit into a bank, building society, post office or credit union account. If you live with your partner and you are both eligible, you will get one monthly joint payment.

"To help tenants prepare for changes within the benefit system and the implementation of Universal Credit, the Housing Association has formed a partnership with Lochaber Credit Union to assist our tenants to manage their benefits.

"As a member of Lochaber Credit Union, you can have your benefit paid in to your credit union account and, upon agreement, have your rent paid directly to Lochaber Housing Association. The remainder of your benefit can then be loaded onto a card and you will be able to withdraw money at an A.T.M. (75p charge) or anywhere that gives ‘cash back’ (free of charge)."

Lochaber Credit Union is a not for profit financial co-operative owned and run by its members. The Credit Union aims to help members take control of their money by encouraging regular saving and enabling individuals to borrow only what they can afford.

You  can join Lochaber Credit Union in one of the following ways:
- visit the website: www.lochabercreditunion.org.uk
- contact the LCU office at An Drochaid, Fort William (Tel: 01397 700746).
- contact Lochaber Housing Association, which is a named collection site for Lochaber Credit Union.

People who are currently receiving benefits, and who have no change in circumstances, will remain on their existing benefits until being migrated over to Universal Credit, by 2017. At present, Universal Credit only affects newly unemployed people in certain areas of the country. It will not replace Child Benefit, Carer’s Allowance, Council Tax benefit or PIP (Personal Independence Payment).

Christmas Card Competition 2014

Christmas Card 2014The Association recently welcomed Hanna Olah Nova and her primary 6 classmates from Lochyside RC Primary School to their offices, as part of the winning prize in our annual Design a Christmas Card competition.

The children also visited Printsmith to watch Hanna’s design being turned into the card.

The children toured our offices meeting staff and asking questions about what it was like to work at the Association. 

The children also performed a song from their Christmas concert.

The Association would like to thank all the primary schools who entered the competition and Printsmith who gave their time so generously.

Pictured are staff from the Association Christine Morrison and Irene Christie with Hanna and her winning design.

Lochaber Housing Association AGM

AGM 2014The Association to start building affordable homes again
New partnership agreed with The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust

This week's Annual General Meeting of Lochaber Housing Association (LHA), heard the welcome news that the Association is about to start work on new affordable homes in Fort William, Strontian, Caol and Kilchoan.

The encouraging news follows a financially challenging period which forced the Association, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, to take the difficult decision to stop building new houses.

Now, following a new partnership agreement with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust (HSCHT), the Association's affordable housing development programme will get underway again in the near future.

LHA chairperson Di Alexander - who has been involved since the Association’s inception in 1988 - told the AGM: "Since last year, the Association's Board and Management Team have been working very hard to establish a viable means of getting new build affordable housing provision going again in Lochaber.

"This work has included extensive discussions with key partners including the Highland Council, the Scottish Government and City lending institutions. These efforts have resulted - I am delighted to say - in the Association's Board agreeing to re-establish a new build development programme, albeit on a modest scale, in partnership with The Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust."

Mr Alexander added: "We have always worked closely with HSCHT in trying to develop and deliver innovative solutions to the affordable housing shortage in Lochaber. This has been particularly true over the past three years whilst we have been unable to be a direct provider of social housing ourselves.

"This partnership approach has helped HSCHT to build some affordable houses for rent and low cost home ownership in several rural communities in Lochaber, where the Association has made available sites that it owns.

"The success of this partnership has now been formalised into a partnership agreement with the Trust to deliver the Association's affordable housing development programme, in tandem with its own complementary new build programme, in Lochaber."

Other good news relayed to Monday evening's meeting at Caol Community Centre included updates on the important role played by subsidiary companies Lochaber Care & Repair and LHA Property Services - both described as going "from strength to strength” and expanding their services to “an ever-increasing number of households and businesses."

The Association has also, for the first time, with the support of Tenant Participation Advisory Service (Scotland), produced a separate tenant's report – Tenant Talk – in collaboration with its tenant scrutiny panel, Your Voice, a collection of interested tenants who come together with the staff of the Association to contribute to reviewing and improving performance and standards. Lesley Baird, CEO of TPAS was guest speaker at the AGM, commented "I know from first-hand experience, how the Your Voice group of tenants have worked together to produce the first tenants' report on behalf of and for all of Lochaber Housing Association's tenants. The housing association is to be commended on its partnership approach to involving its tenants and I trust and hope that this good work will continue to bring positive benefit to the tenants and the Association alike".

Di Alexander said: "Building new and locally affordable housing is vital but so is asking our customers what they think about our services.

"During the year, we carried out a comprehensive Tenant Satisfaction Survey, which showed that the Association enjoys a 90% approval rating. This is solid confirmation that we are providing a quality of service and value for money to be proud of."

The Association would like to thank AA Young who has sponsored the AGM.

Lochaber Housing Association – Community Fund 2014

For the second year, the Lochaber Housing Association 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 Community Fund has now passed.


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