Having provided supported housing in the North West of England for over 10 years, Asif Bax, Managing Director of Halo Housing Association, and Ann Walton, Head of Operations, talk about what it means to be a Registered Provider and why they believe their approach will stand them in good stead in the current public sector spending environment.
Providing supported housing with Halo Housing Association
Halo Housing Association provides accommodation for individuals with learning disabilities, mental illness, physical disabilities and autism. Based in the North West, they work in around 40 local authority areas. Halo has full registration as a Registered Provider of Social Housing regulated by The Regulator of Social Housing.
What’s your approach to providing supported housing?
AB: “We made a decision to grow organically, to get the foundations and skills set right to deliver quality provision at an affordable rate for commissioning teams. Halo has full registration as a Registered Provider of Social Housing, and their standards also underpin our approach. This spans our governance, the make-up of our board, and our economic viability through to the specific quality of accommodation and maintenance and repair services met on each individual home.”
AW: “ We have a person centred approach to provisioning supported living. We always ask ourselves ‘Would you be happy for your child to live in this property?’. We ensure we can provide the housing specification required for each individual, at the quality expected, but also at a reasonable rate for the commissioners and care providers. That’s how we’ve built our reputation.”
Why did you take the route of becoming a registered provider?
AB: “Local Authorities prefer the route of working with a RP (Registered Provider) as their rent is subsidised by the central government. Quite rightly, there is a lot of pressure on any Housing Association to keep up to date with all regulatory requirements from our Regulator. We see ourselves as a hub and a resource for all agencies involved in providing supported housing to tap into. That is the Local Authority (commissioners) with property requirements, Housing Benefit who pay directly into Halo Housing and investors, like Assetz Exchange, who wish to purchase properties for us.
How do you think the future public sector spending landscape will affect your ability to provide supported housing?
AW: “Because our approach has been to keep costs low and not charge astronomically, I think that’ll allow us to ‘ride the storm’. Although the cost of utilities and materials is inevitably going to go up, we always stress test scenarios before we move forward on a property and ensure that we have a decent surplus to operate on.”
AB: “The property market has been very stable in the North West and we have benefited from that over the last few years. In terms of changes to local authority spending on supported housing, I’d point out to investors that there are always going to be statutory needs in this sector and whilst there might be increasing pressure to deliver quality provision at lower cost, I believe we are already well placed to deliver a cost effective solution and stay ahead of the game.”
How did you first start working with Assetz Exchange?
AB: “We were introduced to James at Assetz Exchange through a mutual connection in the sector. We have an ethical landlord approach, where we assess potential landlords on various criteria, such as the ability to be flexible on leases, and Assetz Exchange’s approach was a great match. Now we have worked on several projects together, they’re also good at turning around property purchases, which is important to us, and we are able to agree rents that work for us and the investors. I’ve also found James very responsive post acquisition, if there’s ever a need to go back and solve issues together.”
What does the future hold for the partnership?
AB: “We’re looking to increase our capacity by 100 to 150 tenancies each year and expect that Assetz Exchange will play a part in that. The type of supported housing required will be broad as it is based on individual needs and you can see that in the existing portfolio we have with Assetz Exchange. Some are living semi independently, some groups will require communal living spaces, others won’t. Our latest Assetz Exchange backed property, Park Lane, Macclesfield, is also an interesting one as it’s a new build. I think property development as well as acquisition of existing property is going to be a part of our future.”
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