Regenda turns old public house into new homes

New homes are rising from the ashes of a derelict, fire-bombed pub.

The former Cygnet public house in Birkenhead, once a popular hostelry in the 1970s and 1980s, is being transformed into stylish flats for rent.

The Regenda Group housing association says their newly named Cygnet Court development will offer much needed affordable housing and help to regenerate the local area.

After rescuing the landmark building on Watson Street, Regenda also saved the pub’s distinctive cygnet tile mosaic, which has since been incorporated inside the new building.

“Local people are already telling us how delighted they are that the eyesore has gone and the old pub is getting a new lease of life. Pubs are located in the heart of our communities and, when a development opportunity like this arises, they can really help us to regenerate local neighbourhoods,” said Martin Davies, Regenda’s director of development.

The Cygnet once stood in the shadow of high rise flats and was part of a thriving local community. More recently the building stood empty and derelict and in 2013 it was targeted by arsonists who caused extensive damage.

Once the site was acquired by Regenda, in partnership with Wirral Council and local building contractor Price Street Developments Ltd, work began to convert it into 14 one and two bedroom flats.

Cygnet Court is expected to be completed by New Year, with the first residents moving in early January.

So, if you have always wanted to live in a pub you will need to hurry before the last orders are taken!

Leeds City Council hands over keys to new council houses

Tenants have been officially handed the keys to their newly built council homes which are just some of the 1,000 properties being delivered as part of an ambitious drive to provide new council homes in the city.

Leeds City Council leader Councillor Keith Wakefield had the honour this month of meeting a number of tenants at the new homes, which are located in Beeston Hill.

Overall, the council plans to build 1,000 new council homes across the city by 2018/19, with 275 of these properties being built in Beeston Hill and Holbeck.

Another 113 new homes are in progress in Little London, and senior councillors and council staff recently visited the area to see these and some of the properties currently benefitting from extensive refurbishment. In total, 1,300 homes are being refurbished across all three areas to revitalise the communities as part of the housing regeneration project.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“Being able to present tenants with the keys to their brand new council home has given me a real sense of pride in what we’ve been able to achieve on their behalf.

“This is not just about bricks and mortar; by investing in council housing on this scale we are improving the quality of life for residents who move into these homes and helping them create a community they can be proud to live in.

“With the housing regeneration project we have tangible proof of our vision of Leeds as the best city to live, the best city for health and well-being and the best city for children.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said: “With innovation, determination and partnership working, we’ve achieved really positive results.

“It’s our great pleasure to give tenants a very warm welcome to their new and refurbished homes in Little London, Beeston and Holbeck.

“We want to provide 1,000 new council homes by 2018/19 and we haven’t seen this level of council house building for 30 years. With more properties being completed in the coming months and with more sites being prepared for new council homes across the city we are definitely delivering on our ambitions.”

Jon Hinchliff, sc4L General Manager, said: “The entire sc4L team are pleased with the progress being made in delivering great new homes for people in Leeds, and working with the council to make sure that we give work opportunities to local people too.

“As we hand over homes to tenants, our long-term commitment to the community in Little London, Beeston Hill and Holbeck is being further strengthened as we’re proud to be at the heart of the wider regeneration of the area.”

Utilita Energy: fuelling investment in the North

The Northern Housing Summit, which is widely recognised as one of the key events on the housing calendar, took on even greater importance this year. With the General Election only months away, it became the first major opportunity to call for increased investment in housing in the North.

The theme of the event was #LeadNotPlead, which aims to promote the North as ‘a great place to invest in success’ and calls for a geographically balanced approach to economic recovery. The Northern Housing Consortium, which this year celebrates its 40th anniversary, called on everyone present to get involved in the debate so that it in turn can take their views to the incoming government.

Housing professionals, including Utilita Energy as one of this year’s sponsors, gathered to discuss the issues that will be of utmost importance to the returning government in May 2015, such as how to meet rising housing demand and how to cope with an increasingly ageing population. It wasn’t just quantity of housing on the agenda, but quality. What good are four walls and a roof if tenants are unable to heat their homes? Utilita, which specialises in the newest technology in pre-payment smart metering, works closely with housing associations and councils on the best ways to heat homes, help tenants take control of their fuel usage, and alleviate fuel poverty.

There are already positive noises from Westminster of a greater focus on the North. In the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor George Osborne announced funding for science and cultural initiatives in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield, and said the Government’s “ambition is to build a Northern powerhouse as a complement to the strength of our capital city, where we bring together our great cities of the North”.

#LeadNotPlead will have an important task on its hands to ensure the housing sector is not overlooked in similar announcements in future.

Free gadget helps Regenda residents wipe out condensation

The Regenda Group has become one of the first housing associations in the country to arm its residents with a simple gadget to help wipe out condensation.

Hygrometer-thermometers, which measure the amount of moisture in the air and room temperature, are being given out free to residents who have problems with condensation and damp.

By controlling ventilation and heat, residents can achieve the ideal conditions which keep condensation at bay. Regenda’s asset manager, Graham Minton, says the portable devices cost only £1.79 each, are the size of a small clock and easy to use.

“The separate hygrometer and temperature gauges both have green sections. Providing the percentage of humidity detected and the room temperature stays in the green, condensation won’t be a problem. Once humidity and temperature levels change, residents can easily get the balance right simply by adjusting their heat and ventilation,” said Graham.

Dampness caused by condensation can lead to wall staining and wood rotting, a higher number of dust mites and an increased risk of illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis.

Bathrooms and kitchens, where a large amount of moisture is produced, are particularly vulnerable rooms.

“Nobody wants the problems associated with condensation but one resident’s idea of what is a well ventilated room set at the right temperature can be very different to another person’s opinion. The great thing about a hygrometer-thermometer is that it removes all the guess work and shows you just how close or far off the mark you really are,” added Graham.

Regenda spends at least £60,000 a year inspecting and treating the results of condensation and damp, so a little gadget which allows residents to control and avoid it should help to make some big savings too.

“The main difference between condensation and other forms of damp is that residents have the ability to reduce and solve the problem. The hygrometer-thermometers will make it easier for them to take positive actions themselves,” said Graham.

Rixonway Kitchens: how we’ll help the North to lead not plead

As a Northern business and one of the main suppliers of kitchens to housing providers in the North, we share the Northern Housing Consortium’s commitment to providing opportunities and development within the region. We were proud to sponsor the Northern Housing Summit in Leeds, to celebrate the Consortium’s 40th anniversary, and to get behind the ‘Lead Not Plead’ theme.

It was great to hear housing minster Brandon Lewis MP addressing some of the key issues affecting housing and the North (and facing some tough questions from the audience). Throughout the two days the Summit was an opportunity to meet a host of people committed to furthering the opportunities for housing in the North and to listen to some high-profile speakers.

It’s time for housing providers and suppliers to celebrate the positive contribution we make to improve our communities and to lead the way in demanding positive change for the North. We look forward to watching the Consortium and its members continue to lead the way in the next 40 years.

Leeds City Council offering 30% towards costs of capital developments in city

Leeds City Council is offering up to 30% towards the costs of capital developments for new social housing for rent in the city.

The grant funding from the Right to Buy replacement programme is part of their wider housing growth programme. Successful providers will be responsible for the remaining 70%. Preferred schemes include housing to meet the needs of: older people (particularly Extra Care); small households; larger families; and families with a disabled family member.

Proposed schemes for affordable housing, bringing long term empty homes back into use or co-investment with other developers (including mixed tenure developments) would be welcome.

Designs should support the delivery of the Leeds Standard through being innovative, suitable for modern living, and meet high standards of energy efficiency.

The Council open to suggestions for using land it has identified as suitable for development but is keen to hear from providers who already have land available.

For further information email

Autumn Statement 2014: NHC’s on-the-day briefing

The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his annual Autumn Statement on 3 December 2014. This Northern Housing Consortium on-the-day briefing summarises the key issues of interest to our members, including analysis of the major changes announced to Stamp Duty. Our briefing also contains details of announcements in the lead-up to the Autumn Statement, particularly those contained in the updated National Infrastructure Plan.

You can also read our pre-Autumn Statement submission, and accompanying research on Stamp Duty commissioned by the Consortium from Sheffield Hallam University.

For more information, contact:

Callum Smith, Policy & Public Affairs Assistant
0191 566 1029

The month in events: November 2014

Our annual Northern Housing Summit is always a big job for the events team, and 2014 was no different as we held the event at a venue we had never used before.

Earlier in the year we made the decision to hold our annual Summit at Leeds’ prestigious Royal Armouries Museum, which occupies a fantastic location by the canal in the city centre. Under the theme of #leadnotplead, 12 speakers from inside and outside of housing delivered their views on how the North can take the lead in national matters. The idea of the North being able to #leadnotplead proved incredibly inspiring online, and you can read a Storify of our favourite tweets using the hashtag here.

For this event we also trialled a new approach for our event programme and uploaded all conference information to Delegates could the event programme and speaker biographies on their mobiles, as well as tracking all of the conversation on Twitter via the hashtag. It was great to see so many people accessing the website over the two day conference, and many more visited afterwards to access a selection of presentations from the event.

On the evening of the first day we held this year’s Northern Silver Screen Awards, which celebrate the good work being done by housing associations. We won’t spoil the surprise by revealing the three worthy winners – you can watch all 12 shortlisted projects on our YouTube page before reading our story on the awards to see who won. There’s also a gallery of images on Flickr.

Later in November we held another big event in our annual events calendar: the 4th National Tenant Panels Conference. The focus of this year’s conference was to look at smarter ways of engaging customers, and we were delighted to once again be joined by Yvonne Davies of Scrutiny and Empowerment Partners who helped pull the programme together. Tenant Panels remains the only event for tenants that has a tenant as co-chair – this year Eva Mulholland, tenant of Wythenshawe Community Housing Group and winner of Tenant of the Year at the Housing Excellence Awards, was joined by former Housing Ombudsman Dr Mike Biles. Over 100 tenants and housing officers were in attendance at York Racecourse, and with three workshop timeslots and a choice of 13 different sessions to attend there was a lot of choice for delegates.

Planning is well underway for 2015’s events programme, and we’ll be announcing events for April onwards very soon.