Called Aster Communities, the new business brings together Flourish Homes in Somerset, Sarsen Housing Association, which works in Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire, and Testway Housing, based in Hampshire.
The merger has taken place following extensive consultation with customers and approval from shareholders. It is expected that joining together Flourish, Sarsen and Testway will generate additional funding capacity of £25 million which can be invested in developing services for customers, building new homes and improving existing properties.
Customers will play a key role in the running of Aster Communities. Customer boards have been formed for each region the company operates in. The boards will review how Aster Communities’ housing services are doing, suggest areas for change, identify opportunities, highlight where housing can improve and make decisions about the direction the business should take in the future.
A new customer magazine, Reach, will also be produced in four regional versions, giving readers a greater focus on what is happening in their local area. Reach has been developed in line with Aster Communities’ policy of limiting its impact on the environment. Each edition of the magazine will be printed within 35 miles of where customers live across the central south and south west. It will be printed on 100 per cent recycled paper and use environmentally-friendly inks. Reach replaces the individual Flourish, Sarsen and Testway customer magazines and will save over 300,000 printed pages per year. Using a slightly smaller page size will also allow a further 70,000 pages to be saved. In Plymouth, customers will receive a magazine printed in the region for the first time, supporting the local economy.
And a new website, www.astercommunities.co.uk, has also been launched, bringing together the services previously available over three separate sites.
Steve Benson, group services director for Aster Group, said: “By bringing the operations of all three of our housing associations together, we believe we can offer better services and value for money.
“Our customers are at the heart of everything we do, so we feel it’s essential they play an active role in how Aster Communities operates. They’ve always given us excellent feedback on how we can improve what we do and having the new customer boards in place will allow them to have even greater input in the future.”