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BCHA Development team update January 2021

House

Tithe Barn, Exeter

The Development team at BCHA has been busy progressing a number of ongoing developments, which have either been completed or are due for completion shortly.

We have now exchanged contracts on Tithe Barn. The exchange of contracts is when we are legally tied in to buying the properties and a completion date will follow shortly after which is where we take ownership.

Tithe Barn is a development of 300 homes, which is being built in Exeter by Vistree. On large developments the developers are sometimes bound by the local authority to an agreement called a Section 106 agreement to build affordable homes, and these can incorporate units suitable for Housing Associations. BCHA has been allocated 12 purpose-built flats as part of the Section 106 agreement and this will to expand the supported housing properties available in the area.

The two ground-floor flats will be for general-needs customers, adapted to be fully wheelchair accessible. We are aiming to complete and hand over by the end of January 2021.

The majority of our time this month, however, has been spent on purchasing properties for the Next Steps accommodation programme, which is aimed at helping individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) as well as Exeter, Plymouth and the wider Dorset area.

Our target is to buy 42 one-bedroom flats by March 2021. At present we have secured (offers accepted) on all 42 properties with 27 off-the-shelf purchases and a block of 15-units at the old Clockhouse Garage in Bournemouth.  We are now processing all the legal documentation involved.

Every week, we spend time viewing properties in the different areas. For example, Sam Watt, our Assistant Development Officer spent a day in Plymouth, while Development Officer Nick Richards and Business Administration Apprentice Natasha Callaway went to Weymouth, Dorchester and Swanage.

Sourcing the right properties for Next Steps can be a challenge, as it is proving hard to find accommodation that matches our guidelines and which is in the right area and in the price range.

To make the search easier, we’ve extended the area we are looking in by an extra two miles. We have search alerts set up for when new properties are added to various property search websites, such as Rightmove and Zoopla. In addition, we posted an advert on social media about our search and have proactively contacted local estate agents to see if they have anything suitable on their books, which haven’t been added to the online portals. This tactic has proved to be successful.

We also now deal with leasing properties and have recently taken over 20 new leases in Plymouth from Mears. To help manage the leased properties, we have been learning how to use a new software system, which will be a great time saver for the Development team.

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