Community Resilience

Investing in your Community Awards Winner: Apex

Apex Housing Association is a social housing landlord and manages over 5,000 homes for families and single people as well as supported housing for people with mental health issues, learning disabilities, people with addiction issues and older people. An estimated 43% of all its tenants are living in poverty.

Background

Apex is a responsible landlord and its Community Involvement Strategy demonstrates a commitment to going beyond core business objectives, to tackle poverty and disadvantage within communities.

What Apex Housing Association did

Apex works in a very commercial environment and receives 50% of its funding from the Department for Communities, which is supplemented by private borrowing. Loans are set to double over the next three years.

To deliver its core business of developing and managing much-needed homes, Apex operates a very lean business to ensure it can meet the requirements of its loan agreements.  Currently Apex is the highest geared (debt to asset ratio) Housing Association in NI. The organisation’s only income is through rent, which needs to remain affordable.

Many Apex tenants rely on low incomes and often struggle with poverty. Apex’s Board has committed to a substantial community investment programme that supports tenants who are living in poverty, and to ensures estates are sustainable and vibrant.

Apex encourages staff to help build caring communities and has worked closely with local partners and funding bodies to develop initiatives and services for tenants who are struggling.

A comprehensive Community Investment Strategy is informed by a Tenant Involvement Forum, made up of tenants who live within some of the most deprived communities, and whose voices are seldom heard.

Plans are approved by the Board of Management and outcomes and impacts are measured and evaluated through the Apex Wellbeing Calculator.

A community investment plan, which sits within Apex’s business plan, is based around anti-poverty projects, in an effort to build stronger communities, and it has developed a number of projects, mainly through partnership working or by accessing external funding, including:

  • Food poverty strategy, including the development of a foodbank, a social supermarket, a project redirecting food from landfill in order to sustain 11 local charities, a luncheon club and 60 inner city allotments.
  • Financial inclusion strategy, supporting people to make their money go further including switching utility providers, support into employment and training, accessing basic bank accounts and maximising income
  • Affordable Credit Project, redirecting tenants from payday lenders and loan sharks
  • Project in Africa

Impacts and Outcomes

  • Secured £4.6 million of funding in external grants for one community in the past six years, to help develop essential services, and an additional £404,000 in grants for other community development work
  • 88% of general needs tenants reported satisfaction with the service provided by Apex
  • 87% reported satisfaction with their neighbourhood as a place to live
  • 96% of supporting housing tenants were satisfied with Apex
  • Apex was ranked first out of a total of 21 housing associations for community investment activity and for securing external investment for its communities.
  • 396 employers are staff savings members, 91 Give as You Live members, and 45 staff and tenant volunteers have visited Africa
  • During 2018 Apex:
  • Fed 3,373 people through food projects (1,934 adults and 1,439 children).
  • Facilitated 88 families through the Apex Food Club
  • Redirected 33 tonnes of food from landfill, helping with the financial sustainability of 11 charities in the North West
  • Served 4,310 meals through a luncheon club for socially isolated older people,
  • Delivered nutrition and cooking programmes to 98 people at risk of food poverty
  • Redirected 202 people away from payday and doorstep lenders and into credit union borrowing, saving £32k of interest, had a footfall of over 50,000 people in its community building in an interface area of Belfast
  • Supported 24 tenants with setting up and using a basic banking facilities for the first time
  • Supported 25 tenants into employment or training
  • Saw communities better off by £138,168 as a result of benefit take up campaigns
  • Supported 68 people to volunteer with us; most of our volunteers are past users of our services
  • Over the past 10 years Apex staff and tenants visited an African village three times, and the organisation has spent £239,000 in the village to date (£20,000 in 2018). Benefits include:
    • Primary school performance moving from 260 out of 272 schools in the area to 10th out of 272 as a direct result of the improvements
    • 60 children attending the Community Early Childhood Centre per day
    • Children have safe water at school

For more information, please email t.mccloskey@apex.org.uk