Award winners Jill Haley, BCT Chief Executive, celebrates with Kenneth J McMillan MBE, Director / Trustee of Armed Forces & Veterans Estates / Launchpad and Steve Howells, Business Administration Assistant at BCT

The Byker Community Trust (BCT) in Newcastle upon Tyne is celebrating after scooping two prestigious accolades at the Chartered Institute of Housing North East awards.

Avondale House (a new housing scheme for veterans) won the Innovation of the Year Award while business administration assistant, Steve Howells won the Student of the Year award.

Avondale House, which was visited by Prince Harry last month, includes 34 one-bedroom flats, a 3-bedroom house and communal facilities for leisure, training and IT services.  The facility is run by the charity, Armed Forces’ & Veterans’ Launchpad and provides a safe environment in which residents can make a responsible transition from military to civilian life and addresses the issues that can sometimes lead to homelessness and unemployment.

The majority of its residents are provided with focused support and assistance to launch them into their civilian lives, allowing them to go onto contribute positively to society and helping them avoid falling into unemployment, homelessness or ill health.

The BCT received this award for its innovative approach to transforming a run-down, unpopular and near-empty sheltered housing accommodation, into a fully refurbished facility providing the base from which a wide range of organisations are cost-effectively improving veterans’ lives and enabling them to return to civilian life and to contribute to their communities.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Steve Howells, who started working for the BCT in 2012 as a business administration apprentice, won the Student of the Year award.  This is now his second successful award after winning a commendation in the ‘Rising Star’ category at the National Housing Federation’s annual SHINE (Showcasing Housing in the North East) awards in 2013.

Steve has completed a Business Administration Level 2 and is on course to complete his CIH Level 2 qualification in Housing Practice & Communities where he has ambitions to use the course to progress further, aspiring to develop into a senior role within the housing sector.

Steve is part of the BCT team who are currently delivering a multi-million regeneration project on the Byker estate, getting involved in a range of activities including areas such as communications, tenant involvement and helping to facilitate the BCT’s participatory budget fund.

Steve, who has grown up on the Byker estate, said:

“This is fantastic news to be recognised as the CIH student of the year in the North East. The CIH course is the first step to the rest of my career – one which I hope will eventually see me become a fully chartered housing professional. It builds on the knowledge and skills I have gained through my apprenticeship and while working as a business administration assistant with the BCT.  I would like to thank the BCT for the support they have given me throughout my studies and hope I can continue with my success in the future.”

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT, said:

“The BCT is committed and passionate about creating a community which everyone living, visiting and working in Byker is proud of. Since the BCT was created in 2012, we have made great steps to improve the quality of housing and services for local people and winning these awards is recognition for the organisation, our Board, staff and tenants that we really are making a difference. I would like to congratulate everybody who has been involved in helping us to transform Byker and look forward to making further improvements in the future.”

The awards were held at the Newcastle Civic Centre on Wednesday evening and were attended by over 300 guests representing housing organisations from across the North East.