Sovereign Housing Association

This leading UK housing association is delivering one of the biggest affordable housing programmes in the country.

Sovereign Housing builds high-quality homes and aims to create thriving communities that people want to live in. This involves investing in neighbourhoods to make them vibrant places and providing great services for their residents.

Sovereign Housing operates in the south of England and has built almost 60,000 affordable homes in its core areas of Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Devon, Wiltshire, the west of England, and the Isle of Wight.

Let’s find out more!

Sovereign Housing Association’s mission

Having a strong social purpose, it aims to be the leading landlord in the south of England, providing excellent houses and services for residents and investing in communities for the long term.

This leading housing association has four values:

  • To be accountable and do the right thing.
  • To do what it says it will do.
  • To work with colleagues, partners, and residents for the benefit of all.
  • To be adaptable, embracing change to improve on delivery.

High standards

As well as growing the business, Sovereign Housing aims to provide high-standard, safe, affordable homes in good locations and to maintain them well, getting repairs done quickly and effectively for residents. Customer experience is important, and the company is keen to offer quality services and modern work practices while investing in IT and listening to feedback.

Tom Titherington, chief investment and development officer with Sovereign Homes explained:

There are four basics that we think differentiate our approach from others. Firstly, we are really conscious that we are a developing landlord and not a developer; as such our concern is not with short-term financial reward but the quality of the homes we own and develop and perhaps even more importantly, the nature of the places we create and act as stewards for. Everything we do as a developer needs to be driven by a concern for the current and future customer.

Secondly, while production of new homes year on year is important, we also see ourselves as able to act as patient capital; taking a longer-term view of opportunities to maximise both the social and financial return. Clearly, we need to be commercial about this, using our capital allocation framework to balance the social benefit of a development against the risks.

Thirdly, we are really clear on our standards, and we have taken time to co-create with our customers a set of measures to assess all new and existing homes – our Homes and Place Standard. It’s a tough standard that takes account of all current regulation and anticipates future standards. We use this as the basis of our own standard house-types. This drives our approach to zero carbon-operational and whole life.

This leads to the last element of our approach – trying to mesh our investment in new homes with our investment, replacement or regeneration of existing homes and neighbourhoods, our development strategy Strategic Asset Management being one and the same, aiming to ensure that by 2050 all our homes are fit for the future.

What this has meant in practice is moving toward creating strategic relationships, using our skills and financial strength in partnership with others to create developments and communities that we are proud of.

This means Joint Ventures as we have with Crest in Bristol and Countryside in Swindon, working strategically to enable affordable housing where viability made it difficult and using our own land-led to “do the difficult” and precipitate change as with our Castle Court and Clifton Down Shopping Centre acquisitions in Bristol and the recent Princes Mead shopping centre purchase for regeneration in Farnborough. In each of these we are undertaking the long-term pre-development work to enable new mixed use, mixed tenure neighbourhoods which otherwise would not exist.

The Princes Mead shopping centre in Farnborough will be redeveloped by Sovereign Housing to create a range of homes.

Company structure

This is a not-for-profit company that reinvests funds in homes and facilities. Sovereign Housing benefits from funding from the government, banking, and capital markets, helping it to make a real social difference. It builds a mix of traditional social housing, affordable homes, and commercial tenures according to local needs. It also works on many joint ventures which can often lead to the creative use of assets and high-quality houses as a result.

How it operates

Sovereign Housing Association works on new builds, conversions, and regeneration schemes, with a focus on design, quality, and sustainability. They are currently delivering around 1,800 new homes a year for a range of rental tenures and plan to build 2,400 new homes a year by 2026. Their strong relationship with central and local government means that they plan to invest over £280m a year on new development, alongside engaging in sustainable partnerships with house builders.

Development strategy

Sovereign Housing is committed to making all their homes zero carbon by 2050. Alongside this, their existing assets are continually assessed. The company is aiming to have more land-led schemes, delivered through a land bank and more partnership and joint venture projects. The aim is always to build well-designed homes that are environmentally sustainable, in the right place, with the required mix of tenures in communities with good transport links.

All developments are created with a community focus, which may include places for work, flexible working options such as shared working spaces, shops, opportunities for small businesses, and cafes. While gardens and allotments are important in promoting healthy environments, other community elements could include sports clubs, play spaces, and areas that reflect local heritage.

Affordable homes at Sovereign Housing’s development at the Horlicks Quarter, Slough.

Homes and Place Standard

The company has spent a year developing its Homes and Place Standard, which has been created with customers and employees, looking at external issues such as carbon neutrality and biodiversity, and working with colleagues and residents. Existing homes will be scored against criteria to establish whether they need investment. The aim is to have happy customers which will encourage long-term health and well-being, provide safe, secure homes, an excellent customer experience and create a sense of pride in communities.

The 60,000 homes owned by Sovereign Homes will be assessed against the new standard over the next 30 years. The aim is to have homes that will be adaptable, comfortable to live in, digitally connected, and cost-effective to run. They will be built in safe, vibrant communities and cater to multi-generational communities, different household make-up, and needs. They will be easy to maintain, and developments will provide community spaces, and green areas to foster active lifestyles, along with safe walking and cycling areas.

Where there are no community facilities on new developments, Sovereign Homes will meet with relevant groups to help with the design schemes and perhaps design and plant communal areas. Larger schemes should include community space, gardens, or allotments.

Sustainable

With a focus on achieving net zero, priority will be given to health, the environment, and new technology for customers to use.

Safe

Built to a good standard, safe secure homes will be created.

Inclusive

House designs will cater to all ages and abilities in a community and will be in keeping with the locality.

Tenures

Sovereign Housing Association wants to build homes that people can use throughout their lifetime and a mix of homes of all tenures across developments. Affordable homes will be offered to meet various needs from families and young people to single occupants, older people, and those with special needs, with accessibility and adaptability at the forefront.

Sovereign Housing’s Verwood development in Dorset.

Flexible and adaptable affordable homes

Homes are being built with higher ceilings to give an increased sense of space and light. All new homes must have a minimum floor-to-ceiling height of at least 2.3m and 2.5m is recommended. To meet current and future needs, age-friendly homes are being designed that can be upgraded for future generations to use comfortably, for instance by offering rooms that can be adapted in size, and features such as wider halls and doorways to cater to future mobility needs.

New technology such as rooftop renewables, PV panels, and air source heat pumps will be used, and high levels of thermal insulation will be installed. Existing homes will be upgraded to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate B rating. Homes will be designed using pre-manufacture/modern methods of construction, using offsite or modular technology which helps speed up build times. Dual and triple-aspect homes will be built where possible with bays and projecting windows, and smart movement-sensitive lighting should be provided in communal areas to minimise energy demand.

Maintenance and management

Sovereign Housing aims to reduce the number of communal areas on their developments that need a lot of maintenance, instead creating low-maintenance areas with Biodiversity Net Gain at their heart, encouraging wildlife-friendly habitats and pollinators. Service charges should be minimised by increasing the use of smart technology, such as smart heating controls to help with running costs and electric car charging points.

Build priorities

Future-proofing properties against climate change and extreme weather and taking a fabric-first approach are priorities in the move towards zero carbon. The company aims to build homes with air tightness levels close to Passivhaus standards, including insulation and natural ventilation to make the most of solar gain while minimising energy and water use. The design process considers the circular economy, promoting recycling and reusing as much material as possible. To achieve net zero carbon homes, renewable energy will be created in new homes which will help offset the costs of their construction.  

Flood resilience is assessed on each site and resilience materials and systems will be built into developments in flood-risk areas. The landscape design will include tree planting to increase ground resilience and reduce the risk of flooding. In terms of building materials, there will be minimal use made of energy-intensive concrete and more use of timber which has a negative carbon footprint. Recycled aggregate materials will be considered as they can be cost-neutral.

Where are Sovereign Homes currently building?

Developments are underway in:

  • Charlton Heyes, south Gloucestershire. Nearly 500 homes of varied tenures are being built in a new neighbourhood.
  • The Racecourse, Newbury. Sovereign Housing is working with Newbury Racecourse, the local authority, and David Wilson Homes on a scheme for a diverse community. Work is underway and eco-friendly carbon-neutral homes are being built, surrounded by green space.
  • Other developments are being built at Great Western Park, Didcot; Wapping Wharf, Bristol; Heath Lane, Bladen; Inkpen, West Berkshire; Hanham Hall, Bristol; Mill Reef House, Newbury; Kersey Crescent, Newbury; Trafalgar Court, Theale; Somerford Redevelopment; Asperand House, Poole; Old School Place, Poole and Steeple View, Southampton.

Over to you

If you live in – or have lived in – a Sovereign Housing Association property, we would love to know what you think about it. Please leave a comment in the box below.

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