Gary Moug meets Paul Kelly, managing director of AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd, to discuss the Glasgow firm’s move into the flourishing social housing sector
THE Scottish Government’s announcement that 50,000 affordable homes will be built in the next five years should be good news for Glasgow-based housebuilder AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd.
The family-run business became heavily involved in social housing during the recession and has carved out a niche for itself as a design and build specialist, working with registered social landlords to provide much needed homes on a variety of sites around the Glasgow area.
The business was started in 1995 by Pat Kelly, who’d previously worked for London & Clydeside prior to the firm’s acquisition by Wilson and Connolly in the mid-1990s.
Today, Pat’s son, Paul, heads up the company which is involved in several major developments and has set a target of taking on another “four or five” sites over the next few years.
To help implement that plan, Roddy MacDonald has joined AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd as affordable housing director. Mr MacDonald was previously development director at Sanctuary Scotland and has worked in the housing sector for three decades.
Managing director Paul Kelly told Project Scotland, “We built mainly private housing until the downturn in the market. At that stage we got involved heavily in social housing, working mainly with Wheatley Group, Home Group Scotland and Sanctuary Housing Association. Over the past five years we’ve built around 220 units.
“I joined the business in 1998, having worked in sales and marketing for a few years with a newspaper group after university. It was never the plan for me to join the family business. I never thought we’d work together.
“The early days were difficult and we’ve now gone full circle in terms of dealing with funders and banks. We’re looking again at small phased developments. You can’t just go onto a site and build 60 or 70 units. You’ve got to build it up slowly, which is the way it was when we first started.
“We’ve got a good working relationship with the planners. We tend to consult very early with them and we’ve never really had a problem. We deliver on what we say we’ll deliver.”
When the financial crisis hit, AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd realised quickly the business needed to reposition itself to continue to thrive. The company started looking at the contract side of things with regards to “design and build” for housing associations. That strategy has proved extremely fruitful, to the point where the business is now looking to expand in this area.
AS Homes (Scotland) Ltd has been granted planning approval for sites in Clydebank and Anniesland, Glasgow, to build 44 and 63 homes respectively. Paul also expects to receive planning approval imminently on a site in Renfrew, which would mean another 67 units.
He said, “23 of the properties in Spencer Street in Anniesland will be for private sale. We’re doing that with Sanctuary Housing Association. We went through a consultation exercise and spent a lot of time with the community. It was very positive at the tail end and demolition is well underway.
“The Clydebank project (on the site of the La Scala cinema) has been well received locally. It’s the first development from Clydebank Housing Association since 2008.
“We want to add another four or five site in next two-three years, totalling about 500 units. That’s where we want to be. It’s what the guys are primed up for and ready to go.
“The Scottish Government announcement is a very positive thing. It’s a marker. There’s a massive undersupply of housing. It’s really a case of council/planning and Government working in tandem and then we as a company should be able to take it forward.
“I’m very optimistic. Sites we looked at 10-12 years ago are starting to come though. Brownfield sites are also starting to come to the fore again.”
As the business has grown, Paul insists that a strong family ethos has remained at its heart. “We have core members of staff,” he explained. “Guys who‘ve been with us all the way through the recession and are still here. We’ve got 17 staff members, most of them long-serving.
“Keeping the team together was key to where we are now. Two key personnel were made directors, Kieran Sexton, commercial director and Andy Geddes, technical director.
“Roddy (MacDonald) has now joined as affordable housing director, bringing a wealth of experience in different sectors of housebuilding. He is going to deliver sites for us, which will free up my time to concentrate on funding and other things we need to take the business forward.
“We pride ourselves on deliverability, on programming and on budget completion – these are the key factors within design and build work. If we can’t do that, we’re not achieving what we set out to achieve.
“Ultimately the quality of the end product is what matters most.
“The small to medium housebuilder is something there’s not many of anymore. Those which have come through the recession are obviously doing something right and offering something the public wants.”