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Swansea student lettings agency doubles in size after acquisition of local rival’s portfolio

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StudentDigz, Swansea’s largest independent student letting agency, has completed the acquisition of a large Swansea-based lettings business in a deal that doubles the size of the company’s portfolio of properties under management.

The deal involved the purchase of Swansea agency Charles Perrett’s lettings portfolio.

The purchase means that StudentDigz is now responsible for letting or fully managing more than 500 properties in South West Wales, which become a home to some 2,000 students every year. It now employs seven staff in Swansea as well as an even larger number of subcontractors that manage the upkeep and repairs of the properties.

Since the deal was first signed in late 2020, also the year in which StudentDigz celebrated its 20th anniversary, the company has also successfully integrated its range of cloud-based technologies making the experience of both students and landlords faster and more efficient.

The technology means the invoicing and payments process is now fully automated and gives students access to a virtual portal where they can easily report problems or required repairs virtually, ensuring a speedy solution is reached for all parties – and any tradesperson required arrives with the right tools or replacement parts.

Mark Hobbs, owner and founder of StudentDigz, said: “I am delighted to have completed this acquisition, which was a landmark deal for us instigated in the same year we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a company. The deal effectively doubles the size of our portfolio, meaning we can offer a great choice to students, a better service to landlords and invest in further job creation in the Swansea area.

“I am also pleased with the way in which we have successfully integrated the new portfolio into our existing systems and technology. Our cloud-based software also means a more efficient customer journey for students and landlords and we are already seeing the fruits of that in satisfaction levels.”

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Construction

Sandfields project provides carbon-neutral homes using innovative methods and materials

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The new homes will be insulated using wood, wool, and mushrooms

Two Neath-based construction companies – J.G. Hale Construction, and timber frame construction specialist, SO Modular – are collaborating on a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.

The scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes for social housing provider, Tai Tarian, delivered across three phases, over three years.

The project is a continuation of the existing relationship between J.G. Hale Construction, SO Modular, and Tai Tarian, and is funded by the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) – a Welsh Government funded programme to encourage and test innovative approaches to constructing social and affordable housing in Wales.

Construction of the 55 new homes and refurbishment of the 72 flats will be completed utilising modern methods of construction (MMC), including construction of all new homes off-site at SO Modular’s timber frame factory.

The scheme will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.

Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.

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The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.

As well as reducing the project’s overall carbon footprint, the use of these materials and technology aims to reduce fuel poverty for the development’s tenants by ensuring all homes are built with the top EPA rating of A.

A household is deemed to be in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it requires a spend of more than 10% of its net income on fuel, and in ‘severe’ fuel poverty if fuel costs are more than 20% of household income. Recent Welsh Government figures state that an estimated 155,000 households were living in fuel poverty during 2019 – equivalent to 12% of all households in Wales.

Both J.G. Hale Construction and SO Modular are recognised for being dedicated to innovative, eco-friendly design, quality materials and finishes, and sustainable building practices. The companies are committed to using local sub-contractors and suppliers, with all suppliers and sub-contractors for the Sandfields project sourced from within Wales, with 95% residing within Neath and Swansea.

In collaboration with Neath Port Talbot College, the partnership will also be providing specialist, innovative traineeships, via their in-house training academy. The trainees will be supported by in-house mentors, who are specialists in their respective fields.

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A range of Community Benefits will also be provided for the local community, coinciding with the Welsh Minister of Housing’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Wales Act, 2015.

Tai Tarian’s director of assets, Andrew Carey, said: “County Flats is a prominent part of the Aberavon seafront. Built in the 1950s, the flats are looking tired and are in desperate need of updating. This development will do just that and will provide flats that will be amongst the most energy efficient and sustainable homes in Wales.

“It’s fantastic that we will be working with J.G. Hale Construction, who have committed to using local products and local people.”

David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with SO Modular on this incredibly innovative project for Tai Tarian. The development, when completed, will be completely unique in its use of new sustainable materials and technologies, which we are sure will become more widely used within the construction industry.

“We fully support Tai Tarian’s objective to reduce fuel poverty for its social housing tenants, and by building all homes to the ultimate EPA rating of A, we will not only be helping the tenants save money on their fuel bills, but also be helping reduce energy usage, which is great news in tackling climate change.”

Charlotte Hale, operations director, SO Modular, said: “We’re very proud to be working on this collaboration with J.G. Hale Construction for social housing provider Tai Tarian. The use of these ground-breaking materials, along with our modern methods of construction, should set the standard for similar, future developments.”

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“Our commitment to using local sub-contractors and training local people will, undoubtedly, improve the skills and opportunities for those in the Swansea and Neath areas, making the region the go-to place for knowledge on these new sustainable materials and methods.”

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Charity

Neath Port Talbot community groups to benefit from free building or maintenance work as part of housing group’s Community Challenge

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Tai Tarian has launched its 2022 Community Challenge and is inviting community groups across Neath Port Talbot to apply for a day of free building or maintenance work.

The challenge is a partnership programme between the housing provider and its main contractors, which allows different community projects to benefit from a makeover.

With plans now being drawn up for the 2022 programme, Tai Tarian is inviting schools, community centres, playgroups and other community facilities to apply to take part.

Rebecca Thomas, Tai Tarian’s Economic and Social Regeneration Manger oversees the challenge. 

She said: “Our 2021 Community Challenge was our biggest yet, with 10 projects completed right across Neath Port Talbot.  It is always a popular initiative and we are excited that we will be able help many more community facilities again next year. 

“We’d like to thank our contractors for being so willing to help us and we would urge as many community groups as possible to apply to take advantage of this work.”

Groups wishing to apply for the 2022 Community Challenge can visit www.taitarian.co.uk/communitychallenge and fill in the application form.  Deadline for applying is Friday 17th December 2021.

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Business

New name for Swansea-based housing association

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Family Housing Association, an organisation that provides affordable rented housing and a range of support services to people in South and West Wales, has changed its name to Caredig – pronounced Ca-rae-dig.

Caredig means ‘Kind’ in Welsh, which the organisation says reflects their core purpose of creating better homes and services for communities, putting the delivery of person-centred services first.

Caredig manages over 2,800 affordable homes across the region. Over the years the organisation has diversified and now provides much more than bricks and mortar. With its partners in health, housing and social care, Caredig also contributes to the development of thriving communities providing extra care schemes, supported housing and mental health services.

Marcia Sinfield, Caredig’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to announce that we are now called Caredig, which is a much better reflection of the housing and support we provide. I’m enormously proud of our staff and we’ve had great feedback that the name, with its link to kindness, really embodies who we are and what we do.

“Here at Caredig we’re really excited about the next stage of our journey, we have ambitious plans and are already building new homes and delivering new services so that we can reach more people, making a difference to people’s lives.”

Tenants have also welcomed the change of name, saying that it reflects their experience of the organisation. Jo Ashford, 71, a Caredig tenant living in Morriston, Swansea, said:

“The name reflects the organisation and my experience of them. They have been kind and empathetic and have made a real positive difference to my life. When I first became a tenant, at the age of 66, I was worried about finances and the Housing Officer showing me around the flat did a housing benefit application for me there and then.

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“I didn’t think I would find a home that was nice and affordable so to be able to walk into a lovely new clean flat with a safe roof over my head meant the world to me. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve had nothing but kindness from them.”

Lead image: Jo Asford (L) and Marcia Sinfield at Caredig HQ

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