The Byker Estate in Newcastle upon Tyne has received national praise as a leading example for neighbourhood transformation.

Byker Community Trust (BCT) housing association, which owns and manages 1,800 homes on the iconic Grade II* listed Estate, won the Neighbourhood Transformation Award at the UK Housing Awards, considered as one of the most prestigious in the UK housing sector.

Shortlisted against other neighbourhoods in cities such as London, Bath, Liverpool, Hull and Nottingham, it was the transformation and improvement of the Byker Estate by using a co-creative approach with residents which caught the eye of the judges.

In July 2012, BCT was created following a stock transfer from Newcastle City Council. BCT staff worked intensively with the local community to understand the challenges faced by individuals including hard to reach groups.

Feedback from residents identified four key priorities for their involvement in order to transform this iconic Estate. BCT engaged with residents face-to-face and built trust, they gained a better understanding and insight and encouraged local communities and groups to form, they have helped residents to overcome barriers that prevented them from developing and growing and they have empowered residents and encouraged them to influence and take ownership.

BCT’s innovative housing management model known as the ‘Byker Approach’, was developed to successfully engage with residents. Staff, residents and communities are empowered to give them the opportunity to shape and change the area which has resulted in significant improvements. Tenants were invited to become involved with BCT’s governance and in a meaningful way.

Some notable improvements for BCT include increased income collection, property turn over has reduced, relet times to fill empty properties has reduced demonstrating an increase in demand to live on the Estate. Over 700 residents have benefitted from maximising their incomes and an additional £490K in unclaimed benefits were achieved for residents in the last year alone.

In 2019, a number of projects and initiatives were successfully delivered and supported by a partnership of 29 stakeholders around the development and delivery of a ‘Thriving Byker Strategy’.

Last summer, BCT led on an initiative to tackle youth ASB and summer holiday hunger. The ‘Best Summer Ever’ was a programme of activities and events that engaged over 1,400 young people and over 2,800 free lunches were provided.

Customer satisfaction continues to increase, particularly around the management of the grounds maintenance activity across the Estate. To date, BCT’s team of voluntary tenant Grounds Maintenance Inspectors reported an average satisfaction score of 98% across all key performance indicators.

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of BCT, said: “Historically, the Estate has had a long-standing stigma and reputation for crime and Anti-Social Behaviour and was in need of extensive physical, environmental and social transformation. The challenge was no mean feat and in practice, physical investment alone was not going to solve decades of neglect, poverty and deprivation that prevailed.

“The Estate has undergone significant change and improvement over the last eight years and I am so proud of my staff team and the difference they have made in Byker.

“We have committed £35.7m worth of investment into the Estate since 2012 with a further £11.8m planned to 2025. We are a top 50 landlord (currently ranked 24th in the UK in 2019), we have achieved the Customer Service Excellence accreditation and we were awarded the title of the ‘Greatest Neighbourhood in the UK and Ireland’ in 2018 by the Academy of Urbanism.

“This award further strengthens our vision of Making Byker an Estate of Choice and validates how a co-creative approach to transforming a neighbourhood is not just the right thing to do but demonstrates it can have a positive difference to an area and people’s lives.”

The annual UK Housing awards celebrate the very best in the UK housing sector. This year included 21 categories and BCT was one of seven housing organisations shortlisted within the neighborhood transformation category.

Jill continued: “The judges said that BCT were the winners of the award because they had shown unwavering faith in their residents and real grit in delivering huge change without recourse to huge budgets. They had been impressed with BCT’s ability to progress to where they have, from a difficult starting point, and the way that BCT had built trust with their residents.”