Business

Radius sets out plans for 1,500 new eco-friendly homes over next five years

One of the Radius schemes in Belfast
John McLean

IT'S widely accepted that good quality housing provides the springboard for personal betterment in education, wellbeing and employment, as well as dignity and personal fulfilment.

Diverse and thriving communities can lift our economy and create new and exciting opportunities for current and future generations. At Radius we see tenants at the centre of this vision, with a meaningful say in the association’s priorities and playing their full part as active and responsible citizens in protecting the environment and contributing to their communities.

Radius is the largest housing association and social enterprise on the island of Ireland with 1,000 staff working across 60 towns and communities in Northern Ireland. We directly manage 14,000 homes while the use of innovative technology and mobile support services mean almost 30,000 households are served by Radius.

We recently launched our latest corporate strategy, 2022 -2027 which comes at a time when pandemic restrictions have lifted but tenants and businesses are facing unprecedented economic challenges. To be clear on the challenges and opportunities now and in the years ahead, we engaged with tenants, staff, political, community and business partners during the corporate planning process to ensure their voice and views were included.

Our focus is on delivering excellent customer services through empowering staff and business partners, backed up by a sound and financially secure business.

In a milestone move Radius secured an A1 credit rating with the international ratings agency Moody’s. This enabled us to mount a successful private placement for £105 million with investors from the US and UK which was the first private capital investment of its kind by a local housing association. With this and further placements we have planned, we will develop up to 1,500 new eco-friendly homes over the next five years.

While building new homes in response to rising demand is a priority, so also is the need to make existing homes safe, energy efficient and secure. Standards of safety will be upheld and enhanced as buildings guidelines evolve over time. While EPC ratings across existing homes are better than most UK counterparts, Radius has committed to raising all properties to at least EPC Level C within the next 5 years, with all new properties being developed to an A rating.

We will invest up to £150m over the next five years on modernising, eradicating dampness and making homes more affordable to heat. We had already invested in PV solar panels on most sheltered and housing-with-care schemes, and we have committed a further £25m towards improving the thermal efficiency of older properties.

The current energy crisis with rising fuel and electricity prices and the impact on our tenants has sharpened this focus still further. In 2021 Radius shielded many of its most vulnerable tenants from the full extent of home heating and energy price increases, while many more were protected by phasing in service charges over the next three years.

We continue to expand our housing and service provision in response to demand and in close consultation with tenants and local communities.We support a large number of vulnerable people including the homeless, those with dementia and learning disabilities and other client groups with complex needs and we are fortunate to have expert partners who ensure many of our most marginalised citizens can live with dignity and as active participants in the community.

Truly their work and dedication throughout the pandemic was exceptional. We are delighted to have had our work recognised with a number of recent awards including the NI Social Enterprise ‘Housing Association of the Year’ for 2021 and the Chartered Institute of Housing Organisation of the Year for 2022.

Radius has been building firm foundations in preparation for the economic headwind which faces our tenants and the business. Through this preparation we have every confidence that through business excellence, innovation and collaboration, together with customers and partners, over the next five years we will continue to improve lives and communities and provide the best of housing, care and support.

John McLean is chief executive of Radius Housing

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