RSHA AGM hears praise for tenants’ endurance and a pledge to continue building homes

Rural Stirling Housing Association (RSHA) has praised the endurance of its tenants during the coronavirus emergency.

Woodyard Court in Doune

And the Association pledged not to be knocked off course by the disruption caused by the pandemic as it promised to remain “ambitious” by continuing to build homes.

The uplifting message from RSHA’s AGM last night came despite a turbulent year for organisations with housing associations being no exception.

Due to social distance requirements, members tuned in remotely for the annual snapshot of the work of the organisation during the last year.

RSHA is preparing to return to the office in Doune when the Scottish Government gives the go-ahead - expected sometime in October.

Despite the closure of the office, staff have remained contactable as the organisation adjusted to working from home.

In his report to members following his first year as chair, Mark Griffiths said: “Nothing could have prepared any of us for the onslaught of COVID-19. The upheaval to all our lives has been unprecedented and the Association is no exception. Working from home has become the new norm and we have only been able to offer a reduced service but even this has taken a huge amount of hard work from our staff.

“I must thank our staff for all their efforts associated with this but we are now looking forward to the partial reopening of the office and the resumption of the majority of the services on which our customers rely.”

Mr Griffiths highlighted from stand-out achievements during the year including the launch of six new homes at Woodyard Court in Doune and the start of work on another 50 at Claish Farm in Callander.

He added: “I am proud that we remain ambitious and will continue to be so. Serving our communities is at the heart of all we do.”

Other key building highlights are:

  • Planning permission is being sought this year for 11 homes in Lampson Rd, Killearn
  • Site work is hopefully soon to begin on a 30-home development in Drymen and nine homes in Kippen
  • Balmaha will see 10 houses being built for rent and 6 for sale through a shared equity initiative, four homes for key workers and two self-build plots
  • Plans are under way for 14 properties in Croftamie

There was also impressive news on the amount of money obtained for tenants through RSHA’s ‘Income Maximisation’ work whereby tenants can receive advice in establishing if they are entitled to help from the State and other sources which they may not be aware of.

Most housing associations offer this free service and it is considered vital in helping minimise financial stress – especially at a time of economic crisis during the pandemic.

The total number of tenants who used this confidential service was 150 and remarkably, the total cash sum obtained was close to half a million pounds at £486,607 between April 2019 and April 2020

Chief executive Donna Birrell said there would be a renewed focus on performance to ensure tenants received the very best service possible and praised their endurance during the challenging months of lockdown.

Donna added: “Despite the setbacks of coronavirus and responding to a global health emergency we have achieved so much over the year and our staff team have been extremely busy improving our performance in many areas. We have had particular success in reducing arrears and the time it takes to re-let empty homes. We understand the need to monitor these areas in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“We do however appreciate the effects of the coronavirus and the financial impact this will have on some of our tenants particularly if this has resulted in job losses and financial hardship. We are here to support as much as we can so please speak to us if you have any concerns. We will do our best to help.

“I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to our staff team and our volunteer board of management who have worked tirelessly throughout the year and particular thanks to our new chair who has had to guide us through exceptionally difficult times in his very first year of office.”

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