On 7th August, 1995, Bruce Forbes started working as the first ever Director of Angus Housing Association. He was also the Association’s first ever employee.
On that day, we owned just over 300 houses , many of which needed significant investment, and we had very little funds available to carry out the necessary works to tenants’ homes. Development funding had been suspended for the building of new homes and a bid for a major transfer of Scottish Homes stock was only months away. It is fair to say that if things weren’t turned around quickly, the future of Angus Housing Association as an independent, locally controlled, landlord was in serious jeopardy.
24 years on, Bruce will retire on 6th September just as we near completion of the 2000th house in our property portfolio. The Association is financially secure enough to be able to restrict rent increases to CPI inflation only, the housing stock is close to being 100% compliant with the Scottish Government Energy Efficiency standard and plans are in the pipeline to fund and build around 120 new homes each year.
In the 24 years under Bruce’s leadership, successful estate regenerations have been carried out in Strathairlie and Cliffburn in Arbroath and in Mid Craigie and Whitfield in Dundee. Nearly 500 houses were transferred from Scottish Homes in 1997 and the Association successfully concluded mergers with 2 Housing Co-operatives in Mid Craigie and Ormiston Crescent, Whitfield after comprehensive endorsements by tenants.
Over 1,000 new homes have been built in Dundee and Angus, including many in villages such as Dykehead, Airlie and Westmuir where no affordable rented housing had existed before. It is quite a legacy , but as anyone who has met Bruce wonâ€t be surprised to learn , there are still some regrets in his reflections on his career with AHA.
Speaking just before attending his last AHA Committee of Management meeting, Bruce said, “Obviously, I am very proud of what has been achieved at Angus Housing Association in my time here. Any increase in the much needed supply of affordable rented homes is important, especially to those families which benefit from getting one.
To be able to say that I have made a small contribution to helping a lot of families get a decent home to live in is something to be extremely proud about. Many of the best and most significant moments of our lives are spent in the security of our family home and the home is one of the most important building blocks in all our lives. It is why everyone should have a right to a decent , secure, warm, affordable home but there is still a long way to go to achieving this. It is, however, imperative if we are serious about aspiring to a fairer and more equitable society.
My regrets are that during my working life , some of the progress achieved in earlier years has been compromised by a failure of housing professionals to convince politicians of all hues that the subsidy level for building new homes needs to much more than at present. In the last few years , we have been forced backwards in terms of environmental specification and space standards in a race to build more for less subsidy. We really need to be future proofing the capital investment in new homes that we are making now. Instead, we seem to be moving back to building spaces to be occupied rather than the real homes and communities we need, while at the same time, allowing volume house builders to make massive profits with the help of public subsidy.
The other impact that this has had is on the affordability of rents. Rightly , tenants are questioning how much they are having to pay for an “affordable”€ť rent. Unfortunately , most don’t see beyond blaming their landlord instead of questioning the whole, totally inadequate range of housing policies that have left the housing system throughout the UK creaking at the seams. It may be better in Scotland than in England but the continuing obsession with the owner occupied sector as being the tenure of preference needs to reversed.
These are, however ,problems that my successor at AHA will have to grapple with as I sail off into the sunset of my retirement. On that note, I would like to wish our new Director, Gail Robertson , all the best in her new role. I am sure that she will do an excellent job.
Most importantly, however, I want to say a huge thanks to all of the staff and voluntary Committee Members at Angus Housing Association with whom I have worked and relied on in the last 24 years. It has been a privilege and an honour to work with you for an organisation where a culture of teamwork, mutual respect and hopefully , friendship, have been the key to us delivering for our tenants.”
Angus Housing Association Limited
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