Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association is celebrating after winning two categories at this year’s Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) North East awards.

The annual awards recognise professionals and organisations within the housing sector that have demonstrated innovation and creativity in the services they provide.

The organisation, which owns and manages 1,800 homes on the iconic Grade II* listed Byker Estate, won the award for outstanding innovation for its innovative approach to delivering services, reducing costs and improving services for customers.

When former Chancellor, George Osborne announced in his budget statement in 2015 that housing associations would have to cut social housing rents by 1 per cent each year for the next four years from April 2016 to help reduce the country’s housing benefit bill, this left many housing associations across the country wondering how they could bridge the deficit.

In September 2014, the Board and chief executive of BCT undertook a comprehensive review of services to explore how services to tenants could be improved.  Following consultation with tenants, BCT decided to bring all management services in-house, which was previously contracted out and become a partner in an innovative Cost Sharing Vehicle (CSV), launched by housing provider Karbon Homes.

This pro-active and innovative approach enabled BCT to recover what would have amounted to £2m loss of income over four years.

Jim Coulter, Chair of BCT, said: “We had already started reviewing service delivery long before the Government announced the 1% rent cut so when it was made, we knew how we were going to recover the £2m loss in income, which is a huge amount for any business.

“Fortunately, we were ahead of the game and brought tenancy and management services in-house and formed a partnership with Karbon Homes to deliver other services in a cost-efficient way.

“While other housing organisations have gone down the merger route, we have more control over our own destiny and I am delighted that this has been recognised by the Chartered Institute of Housing as an example of best practice and innovation.”

The other award, ‘Exceptional Contribution by a CIH Member’ was presented to BCT’s chief executive, Jill Haley for outstanding professional achievement and personal contribution to housing in the North East.

Jill has worked in the housing sector from the age of 16 and has committed over 35 years of her career to the industry, which she has always pledged here in the North East.

Working in senior roles at Sunderland City Council, Halifax and Gentoo before joining BCT in 2012, she has served as Chair and Vice Chair of the CIH North East Regional Board and Vice Chair of the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Jill’s vision, determination and focus on improving the Byker Estate and people’s lives is admired by many across the sector and in Government.

Commenting on her achievement, she said: “This is a wonderful accolade to be recognised by my peers across the sector for my contribution to services to housing.  We are really making a difference here in Byker and I would like to thank the wonderful team and Board that I have around me who believe in my vision and aspirations not only for Byker but across the region.”

As a regional winner, Jill is automatically shortlisted for the national CIH Housing Heroes Awards, which will be held in Manchester in June.