Caledonia Housing Association explains how it’s redeveloping a vacant brownfield site in the north of Glasgow, and transforming a disused office into affordable apartments
Eight new affordable homes are under construction at 68-78 Townhead in Cowgate, Kirkintilloch, with developer Caledonia Housing Association transforming a vacant office building into modern apartments for rent.
Caledonia will manage and maintain the new homes, in what is the first ‘restoration’ development of its type for the housing association in East Dunbartonshire. According to the HA, the Cowgate area continues to be in severe need of additional homes, but its new properties will be rented out at “affordable rates” to help meet this need.
The project has been enabled in part by grant funding from the Scottish Government, with the Government and East Dunbartonshire Council. The latter approved the development noting the project’s contribution to one of its key housing objectives, namely, the repurposing of town centre buildings into domestic dwellings as the identity of high streets continues to shift.
As the first of its type for the HA in the area, it was key that the office’s refurbishment was led by those with expertise in this area, as well as knowledge of the locality and how to respond to it.
In October 2018, Antonine Housing Association transferred their engagements to Caledonia Housing Association – the transfer of engagements approved by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to give Caledonia full responsibility for the homes and services that were previously provided by Antonine.
Today, Caledonia Housing Association is one of Scotland’s leading providers of high quality, affordable housing, managing over 4,600 properties across eight local authority areas, with a further 512 socially rented homes owned and managed by its subsidiary Cordale in the Renton area of West Dunbartonshire.
Despite this wealth of experience and expanding stock, the HA has largely focused on new builds in recent years. This will in fact be the first time in nearly a decade that Caledonia has worked on a renovation project of this type, and the very first in this area.
In part because of this, it was an objective for the HA to achieve not only its usual requirements, including “best value” maintenance and efficient procurement, but to also gain expertise on refurbishment projects. It also “recognised that lowest cost will not always represent best value.”
Meeting all the housing association’s requirements, the construction of the project has been led by the established local firm Sim Building Group, who aim to complete the properties by February 2023.
Established in 1957, the central Scotland-based contractor was reportedly selected due to their reputation for quality of work, and “traditional values,” while maintaining the highest standards of health and safety, all key aspects noted by the HA during the project.
As a company with a base in Kirkintilloch, Sim Building Group was reportedly “proud to support Caledonia in delivering more affordable housing for the town,” with its managing director hailing the works as “an exciting project” for the team to work on.
With Sim having experience in both commercial and retail development including building new steel frame buildings, abd extensions to offices and refurbishment works and new affordable and private housing schemes, Caledonia was confident it would be well placed to take the role of principal contractor.
According to Caledonia, the housing association’s principles are central to its business’ practices, with a priority placed on “people, value and quality.” In order to realise this, the HA cites its three guiding principles, including simple and effective customer service, “person-centred solutions that multiple routes for access of services and communication,” and “empowering staff.”
Aiming to achieve all the above, the development is intended to provide homes and services that make the residents lives better and provide for any in the community, with the homes designed to cater for diverse needs – including families, couples, single people, and a range of ages. Each property in the two storey building has two bedrooms, and there are 15 off-street parking spaces shared between all the apartments.
As is the case with all Scottish Registered Social Landlords, Caledonia have their performance on these metrics reviewed by the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR). The HA no stranger to this process – the SHR currently ranks the housing association as being of “systemic importance, with an “engagement status” rated at medium.
Alongside the homes themselves, it was important that both the development process and the continued support after completion were considerate of the tenants living in or around the area.
Throughout the redevelopment of this project, the housing association intended to ensure that tenants were able to influence the decision-making, so that its customers were involved in shaping all the services they receive.
As such, In consultation with members of its tenant steering group, Caledonia has developed a Tenant Participation Strategy – which frames how it engages with tenants on both an individual and a collective basis.
This strategy has been used across the new project, encouraging tenants to communicate with the HA, and in parallel providing them with opportunities to develop new knowledge and skills, “enhancing the community around them and maintaining it.” The overall aim is to “increase tenant satisfaction and value for money,” said Caledonia.
Moving forward, Caledonia intends to further extend its mission and the guiding principles that led to this project, in a “growing operational context,” but putting tenant’s needs and concerns front and centre throughout.
The HA believes the project, its wider developments, and these tenets are enabling the company to ensure resilience in all areas of its business, creating a strong base for its continued growth.
Andrew Kilpatrick, director of assets at Caledonia Housing Association, comments: “The demand for social housing continues to increase all over Scotland for a variety of reasons, including homelessness, separations and people who choose to downsize. The Kirkintilloch development is an integral part of our ongoing commitment to build more affordable homes in East Dunbartonshire and across Scotland.”
He continues: “We have a really strong working relationship with the government, council and Sim Building Group who have all supported us in purchasing and transforming the vacant office block. This is the first time in more than eight years that Caledonia has been involved in a repurposing project of this kind, and the first in the East Dunbartonshire area.”