By Chris Smith, Executive Director of Business Growth, Thirteen

There’s an ongoing and understandable government drive to build more homes which makes sense on so many levels. At Thirteen, we’re passionate about providing new affordable homes for rent and sale, and developing modern, spacious homes is a big priority for us.

We’re a Homes England Strategic Partner which means we have a large development programme and are working across the North East to deliver this.

But let’s face it, there are many communities in the North East where homes were built in, and even before, the last century which can hardly be described as modern.

Many thousands of homes were constructed to house the then workforce and where there were once thriving communities, some have declined over the years and often display poorer housing standards, more transient populations and higher levels of deprivation. Funding to tackle issues like this on a large scale has all but dried up, but we can’t just abandon these places, especially when
we have a stake in the area.

We like a challenge at Thirteen and regeneration has always remained on our agenda, so we have been actively working with communities and local councils in the region to help improve these older housing areas where we can.

One example of a successful project has seen us working in partnership with Middlesbrough Council in North Ormesby to deliver a range of interventions that might seem small scale but can make all the difference for people living in the community. And we think it’s vital to work
with the local community, building on the assets that are already there rather than focussing on the negatives.

We’re three years into the project which has involved buying and improving empty homes to let at affordable rents, creating much needed green spaces, supporting local groups to grow, and helping people into employment and training.

With an initial stake at North Ormesby of £1.4m between us, it’s not a huge investment but the project has been really effective, nonetheless. It’s created a sense of commitment and enables other funding streams to be drawn in and the area is much improved and on the up; it’s also been great to see how the project has helped the local community groups to become stronger than ever.