One of Scotland’s most respected housing and care providers is pressing ahead with its plans for pioneering change, thanks to an ethical lending partnership worth £5 million.
Blackwood is working with Triodos Bank in order to achieve its long term objectives for innovation in housing and care.
The Edinburgh-based charity has more than 1500 homes throughout the country making it a leader in helping those who are disabled, elderly or with sensory impairments to live more independently.
As it works in 29 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, it is more widely dispersed than most other care or housing providers and has embraced the challenges of taking housing and care into innovative areas at a time when funding is increasingly limited.
Blackwood Chief Executive, Fanchea Kelly, has led a pivotal year of change and innovation, including the tie up with Triodos.
Fanchea said: “We were naturally drawn to an ethical bank. We wanted to find lenders who were interested in more than the simple financial transaction, but were also interested in our business and who fit with our values. I’m delighted to say that Triodos fitted perfectly.
“However we also have to deal with everyday realities and one of those was access to the size of loan that was right for us. The conventional banking market has been retracting longer term lending and Triodos were simply more flexible than other High Street banks.
“To us this £5 million is essential so that we can continue to invest in our properties and make sure they are upgraded to the right standard. We’re also investing in new systems which help our residents to live independently in warm, secure homes.
“The Triodos loan has allowed us to press ahead with our long-term asset management strategy and has allowed us to achieve plans agreed by our board.”
While the Triodos commitment to ethical practices and investments was a huge draw to Blackwood, practicalities played an important role in the decision.
Ian Harrington, Head of Finance at Blackwood’s Edinburgh HQ, said: “There were three things that stood out about Triodos. The first was pricing – it was competitive.
“The second was the length of the loan. It is quite difficult to get longer term arrangements, but the Triodos loan is for 25 years, which is not only better financially, but also shows their commitment to develop a good, long term working relationship with us.
“The third was the ethical element. The ethos of Triodos Bank and the mission of Blackwood is such a good fit.”
Ian explained that the Triodos loan will be used to update and modernise Blackwood’s current housing stock, with energy efficiency high on the agenda.
He added: “We will be improving energy efficiency across the country by investing in things like air source pumps to heat our homes, by looking at more efficient boilers, better insulation, including replacing windows – things that will create much more affordable warmth.”
Graeme Galloway, Relationship Manager at Triodos Bank, hopes the partnership with Blackwood will act as a showcase to other housing association and third sector organisations.
He added: “We are delighted to be working with Blackwood, which is an innovative and forward thinking housing and care organisation that truly puts the enhancement of people’s lives at the forefront of its operations.”
Blackwood is renowned for constantly pushing the boundaries of technology to allow property adaptations which make a huge difference to people with disabilities. Another benefit of the Triodos loan will be ongoing investment in IT, to keep Blackwood at the forefront of innovation in independent living.
In September Blackwood was praised for its forward-thinking annual meeting in Glasgow’s Science Centre, where it arranged a demonstration of disability aids down the decades – from early wheelchairs to state-of-the-art exoskeleton technology
And in October Housing and Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess officially opened Blackwood’s tech-savvy new HQ in Edinburgh’s Dundee Street, which features hi-tech rise and fall work stations and at which bionic arm technology was used in the ribbon cutting.