History of Albyn Housing Society Limited
Albyn Housing Society Limited was established in 1973 to provide rented housing for workers moving into the Easter Ross area in the wake of the economic initiatives of the 1970s. As well as the smelter in Invergordon, the oil industry attracted a huge population which saw villages like Invergordon and Alness become towns overnight, with the construction of large housing estates.
The core of Albyn’s activities remains its Invergordon stock, which numbers 400 houses for rent. The stock has had a chequered life, in that almost from the first day of occupation it suffered from defects due to poor quality control in construction and poor standards in the Highlands. A major strategy from the early 1990s has been the refurbishment of this stock, and this was completed in 1996.
With the downturn in the fortunes of the area in the 1980s, and in particular the closure of the smelter in 1981, the Society (with the encouragement of the then Housing Corporation in Scotland) developed a Highland-wide role. It began to build in the districts of Caithness, Sutherland, Ross & Cromarty, Nairn, Inverness Town, Inverness-shire and Badenoch & Strathspey. This remains the Society’s geographical area of operation today. As well as rented housing, the Society was among the first to undertake shared-ownership, which has always been extremely popular in an area where ownership has been seen as the aspiration of most of the population. Shared Equity has been marketed successfully, too.
In the 1980s the Society also began to develop Particular Needs housing. This has been one of the Society’s great success stories. Particular Needs provision is met in every mainstream development, in one form or another. There is a Support Services section within the Housing Services Area, including 2 projects specifically for vulnerable homeless people. The Society is at the forefront of groundbreaking work in the provision of housing and care in rural areas for older people.
During the past few years the Society has played an influential part in developing partnership approaches to providing housing solutions in the Highlands. It has been one of the mainstays (along with the Highland Council and Cairn Housing Association Ltd) in the successful achievements of Homes for the Highlands, which has its origins and funding resources in New Housing Partnerships and other bid funding mechanisms. Partnership activities have included the Society being a founding member of the Highland Housing & Community Care Trust and the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust.
The Society’s current stock of over 2,000 properties (owned and in management) includes 400 units acquired from Scottish Homes in Easter Ross and Nairn in 1992 and 1996. Around 415 units are Shared Ownership. There is a ready market for new sales and for resales, which the Society carries out under a voluntary nomination resale arrangement.
Albyn Housing employs 47 members of staff. Support Services, which offers support to vulnerable homeless clients, has a total of 9 staff, 7 based in our Inverness Office and one each in Nairn and Dingwall. There is a core of 38 staff in the Society’s main office at Invergordon.
The structure of the Society comprises 5 main Service Areas: Corporate Services, Finance & IT Services, Development Services, Housing & Community Services and Property Maintenance Services. Each has a common structure of Service Area Director and Manager(s), with Officers and Assistants, as appropriate. The 4 Service Area Directors join the Chief Executive in the Executive Team. Five Service Area Managers join the Executive Team to form the Society’s Management Team.
The Membership and Committee of Management are drawn from all over the Highlands and we seek representation from all the areas in which we work. Besides the Committee of Management, the Society has several sub-committees, including Audit, Grievance & Disciplinary Hearings and Staff Consultative Forum. A recent development has seen the introduction (on a pilot basis) of sub-committees for each of the 5 service areas.
During recent years rule changes have set aside 5 places on the Committee of Management for tenant members, including one which is the nominated representative of the Federation of Albyn Residents (FAR). There are 7 tenant members of the Committee of Management at present. FAR has developed very successfully during the past several years and has ambitious plans for training programmes and further growth.
Staff development has been a key issue for the Society and a job evaluation for each post within the Society was completed in recent years, using internal resources and EVH (of which the Society is a member organisation). During the past few years, ACAS have been brought-in by the Committee of Management, in partnership with the GMB (the recognised trade union), to enable the further development of healthy industrial relations. The Society is considering seeking Investors in People status through Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, along with other quality assurance programmes.
The Society has the benefit of great flexibility, a reputation for innovation and response to challenges, independence, and good relationships with all Highland partners and highly motivated staff.
Scottish Homes Performance Auditors visited the Society in February 2001. The outcome of this visit is that the Society has been awarded “B” grading. It was previously “C” graded.