Published: March 19, 2021 | Updated: March 20, 2021

Law firm advises BCHA on first major property deal under government homelessness scheme

The Clock House, on the site of the former Clock Garage in Ringwood Road, Bournemouth.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Commercial law firm Steele Raymond has advised charitable housing association BCHA on the acquisition of The Clock House, a new housing development in Bournemouth.

It’s the first major deal for BCHA under the government’s Next Steps Accommodation Programme (NSAP) and will create 15 new residential properties.

They will provide longer term homes for people who have been in temporary accommodation as part of the Everyone In initiative to end rough sleeping and homelessness.

The acquisition comes at a time of significant need across the region as the pandemic has highlighted greater homelessness than was previously evident.

Figures released prior to the onset of Covid-19 estimated that there were between 70 and 80 rough sleepers in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.

However, the health crisis and subsequent national lockdowns revealed a further 200 ‘hidden homeless’ who also desperately needed a safe place to live.

The ‘hidden homeless’ crisis – people forced to ‘sofa surf’ or to reside in insecure accommodation – was also seen nationally.

It prompted the government to announce the Next Steps Accommodation Programme in July 2020.

This made additional financial resources available to local authorities and their partners for housing.

Martin Lucas, pictured left, BCHA’s Director of Finance and Corporate Resources, said: “Our aim is to meet housing need and to end homelessness through the building and provision of affordable and secure homes, and by supporting individuals to take control and lead independent, fulfilled lives.

“NSAP and The Clock House project is yet another example of what can be achieved within a relatively short timeframe with the help and perseverance of our people and partners and will have a significantly positive impact on the lives of its new tenants.”

The work of BCHA not only covers the BCP area but also wider Dorset, South Somerset and Devon, including places such as Plymouth and Exeter.

BCHA’s acquisition of The Clock House, on the site of the former Clock Garage in Ringwood Road, further cements an already longstanding relationship between the charitable housing association and Steele Raymond.

It is the latest of more than 200 property matters dealt with by Steele Raymond’s residential development solicitors.

Martin said: “We have worked with Steele Raymond for over 20 years now and the relationship has stood the test of time because they understand our priorities and make sure that our objectives are met, while maintaining an extremely high standard of service.

“In particular, the Next Steps programme has required a tight turnaround as well as a significant level of attention to detail, which they have delivered.”

Emma Stainwright, pictured right, Partner and Head of Residential Development at Steele Raymond, said: “Helping clients like BCHA to achieve their goals is one of the most rewarding aspects of my residential development work; to be able to have assisted in the amazing work that they do in any small way is fantastic.

“There was a lot of information to sort through as the building was only partially constructed at the time of acquisition.

“It was of primary importance that we fully understood exactly what stage the build had got to and how the stage payments under the build contract were going to sit against the land and partially constructed building.”

The Clock House is just one of a number of properties included in BCHA’s successful NSAP bid to deliver 25 new units in the BCP area.

The association is also delivering a further 17 properties across Plymouth, Exeter, and Dorset.

Martin Hancock, pictured left, BCHA’s CEO, said: “BCHA’s key learnings from the NSAP bid are that it was an ideal opportunity to help end rough sleeping and achieve more homes on the social rent model.

“The rent needs to be truly affordable.

“We feel that if you want to end homelessness there needs to be the right property with the right tenancy and the right support to give people opportunity to gain employment, afford the rent and build better lives.”