The core goals of The Northern Echo’s Level Up campaign have always been to build a future for the region through more jobs and investment.

As we have grown the team of leading North East businesses who support us in this ambition, we have added key sectors who have each brought their own viewpoint to the table – a vital mix working together.

Now we are proud to welcome believe housing to that table to work alongside bp, Cummins, Durham County Council, Womble Bond Dickinson, North East England Chamber of Commerce, Tees Valley Combined Authority and YouFibre – with more businesses being invited all the time to stand up and fight for their region.

Read more: Find all our Level Up stories here

believe is one of the largest housing associations in the north east of England, putting tenants at the heart of what they do over 862 square miles, from the rural west, to Durham city centre, and the magnificent coastline in the east.

Alan Smith is Executive Director of Investment, Growth and Performance – a board member helping drive the organisation forward, growing and developing just as much as the region it calls home. He says joining the campaign was an easy choice for the organisation.

“The Level up campaign is a perfect fit for us because we were brought together to be more than just a provider of homes, building new homes and repairing existing homes,” Alan told BUSINESSiQ.

“We support communities and the people that live in our communities and the whole Level Up agenda is very much about those life opportunities. So raising a voice for housing and having vital collaborations with agencies that all support communities, the region and the economy is where believe belongs.”

The organisation’s mission statement - We believe in a life without barriers – will be applauded across the region as a commitment any business would stand behind. It would give the North East a perfect equilibrium if anyone could aspire to any position, pushing aside anything that might stand in their way.

Another thing Level Up partners are constantly focussed on is the need to keep talent here in the region. In the past it was a rush to leave here, escaping the embarrassment of staying trapped by attitudes, prejudices and industries. But the foundations of the region have been changed by companies like believe who want both housing and hope to be available to everyone trying to build a life here.

“There has to be change that can be sustained and create some kind of perpetual change going forward rather than just one-off pots of funding for individual schemes that have some benefit but then are 'here today, gone tomorrow',” said Alan.

“There has to be more, to create a lasting legacy for the region if inequalities are to be removed.

The Northern Echo: Level UpLevel Up

“Everybody is entitled to a good quality, safe and warm home which brings with it lots of benefits of wellbeing and health as well as pride in their community. But aligning all the Levelling Up objectives with everything else that going on is really important because if these things are done in isolation then they end up just as individual schemes.

“Building new homes is a great support for the economy in terms of job creation, the green agenda and decarbonisation – it is such an important aspect but sometimes we take it for granted and there has been a lack of investment in affordable homes here just as in many regions.

“We are now starting to see green shoots in terms of the funding Government is providing, but if the Levelling Up White Paper is to work then there has to be a commitment to sustaining that rather than have a stop-start approach.”

Unflinching in its own long-term commitment, the team at believe - hugely aided by an extensive supply chain who are keeping jobs secure across the region - recently clocked up a remarkable landmark – its 600th new build home, allowing Paula Marx to move into St Godric’s Close at Newton Hall.

The Northern Echo: Paula Marx moved in to St Godric’s Close Paula Marx moved in to St Godric’s Close

The development was built on a vacant site near Newton Hall Library, and comprises of 17 adaptive bungalows, including 15 two-bedroom properties and two three-bedroom family homes. The £2.5 million site has been built to meet the high demand for affordable bungalows in this area, with the design of the bungalows at St Godric’s set out with help from believe’s occupational therapists. Handing over the keys to Paula, Chief Executive Bill Fullen said the company would construct another 1,250 new homes over the next five years.

Paula said she felt like ‘a queen in my castle’ which is a vivid example of the effect it can have to close the door on your own home and open so many more to opportunity and personal growth. As Alan tells me, this is ‘the power of more to bring people together to achieve more’.

believe was created in 2015, taking over former council housing stock from Durham County Council, and now has more than 18,000 homes and 570 employees.

The tenants had to vote for believe to look after them, so they set out a series of promises to work with the community.

“We have delivered on them, but are constantly talking to tenants to find out what we can do and what they expect from us,” said Alan.

“We have rethought and reshaped out offer to customers as well as to our own staff because you can’t do one without the other. We have invested a lot of time in developing our culture to make this a positive place to work, aligned with our customers’ values and coming together to do the right thing.

“We’re investing in so much more than just housing stock - we have never been only about bricks and mortar - we are a part of the community and have a role there supporting them whenever we can.”

If you want to work alongside believe, bp, Cummins, Durham County Council, Womble Bond Dickinson, North East England Chamber of Commerce, Tees Valley Combined Authority and YouFibre as part of our Level Up campaign, contact


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