Business excellence recognition for Berwickshire Housing Association CEO

Helen Forsyth
Helen Forsyth

Berwickshire Housing Association’s chief executive Helen Forsyth has been announced among the nominees to be named Business Leader of the Year 2017 by Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce.

The six-strong shortlist was revealed to begin a public vote ahead of this year’s Business Excellence Awards.

Having been involved in housing associations and community regeneration since 1995, Ms Forsyth was appointed chief executive of BHA in 2007. Previously, she spent seven years as chief executive of Edinvar Housing Association before becoming director of regeneration with Place for People for three years. I have worked in the health sector as well as social care, with refugees and in mental health.

For Helen, a common priority in the housing market is how to sustainably fund the construction of new homes for social rent. Her quest for innovative solutions to this question led to the creation of a community wind farm to help fund new affordable homes.

The Fishermen Three wind farm near Cockburnspath was launched in March 2017 and is the first wind farm to be developed by a UK housing association. A joint venture between BHA and Community Energy Scotland, it will create revenue for BHA of around £20m over the next 25 years, enough to see 500 new homes built.

BHA has also developed new heating systems for its homes which reduce bills for tenants. 700 of the Association’s homes have been fitted with PV solar panels while it has also introduced new insulation systems and have piloted the first heat batteries which have received positive feedback from tenants.

These investments in modern technology, Helen believes, set an example for other housing associations to follow. They create a reliable revenue stream while being of assistance to tenants. In this way, housing associations can actively improve the lives of their tenants and make a positive contribution to maintaining vibrant communities – which is surely one of the principal aims of the housing association movement.

Responding to the shortlisting, Helen Forsyth told Scottish Housing News: “This nomination has come out of the blue and I am very excited, not to mention flattered. At BHA we are proud of the fact that although we are a not for profit organisation, we run ourselves like a business.

“The principle is exactly the same - at times of economic uncertainty, we all need to be innovative and forward-thinking in order to continue to deliver a good service to our customers, while reducing costs. In the community wind farm, we have put in place a sustainable and reliable way of financing new homes for the future.”

You can vote for Helen here.

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