On 30th September 2019 New Forest Villages Housing Association (NFVHA) merged into the English Rural Group. The merger sees NFVHA becoming a subsidiary of English Rural, strengthening a shared strategic direction by increasing an ability to deliver quality homes and services in rural communities. English Rural was selected as the preferred housing association by NFVHA after a competitive process.
The new arrangement will support English Rural in the delivery of its purpose which is “the provision and management of affordable housing for local people in rural villages in England and to be an advocate for affordable rural housing”. English Rural’s Business Strategy includes an ambition for growth, secured through collaboration, provision of services to other housing associations and building new affordable rural developments via community partnerships.
NFVHA’s 47 properties are all within small rural villages in the New Forest District and the merger adds further scale to English Rural’s presence in rural Hampshire. There is clear geographic synergy as English Rural operates predominantly in the south of England.
Commenting on the merger, English Rural’s Chief Executive, Martin Collett said:
“English Rural are delighted to welcome NFVHA to the Group. This new arrangement will enable us to work even more closely with them and apply their resources towards the agreed purpose of building and managing affordable rural homes within the New Forest District. Already the NFVHA Board has approved a business strategy that will see the number of homes they own grow by 40% over the next five years, investing existing and new finance.”
“English Rural’s own business strategy is to work with smaller specialist rural housing associations to make sure that they are secure, well-run and able to deliver on a shared purpose. The need for affordable rural homes is greater than ever and maximising investment in new homes through mutually beneficial collaboration and partnerships is an important part of the solution.”
The new arrangement improves overall performance and secures better value for money for both organisations. The relationship will capitalise on the excellent local NFVHA brand whilst increasing access to the expertise of English Rural. This will make sure that NFVHA resources are applied to investing in more affordable homes in the New Forest District, an area covered by a National Park, where property values are no longer affordable to local people.
Like so many rural areas, villages across the New Forest are at risk of decline following the continued loss of services such as schools and pubs. Both English Rural and NFVHA believe that investing in just a handful of affordable rural homes can be a catalyst for stopping this decline. Without these homes, it is difficult for families to grow and remain, putting the long-term sustainability of the local economy at risk.
Both English Rural and NFVHA have strong track records of working with communities in rural areas to deliver homes that meet an acute need. Housing needs surveys are carried out to understand exactly what homes a community needs and where they should be built. The community is involved throughout the design process so that the homes reflect the aspirations and sensitivities of local people.