All accommodation is in self-contained one- or two
person flats, apart from a number of bedsitters at Aylesbury. All units have a living room, kitchen and bathroom. Accommodation is under one roof, with one protected main entrance door for security, but each tenant has a front door to his or her own flat within the scheme.
The Board of MHA
believes that personal safety and security is of paramount importance to elderly people and it is a policy of MHA
always to provide resident wardens. This is in marked contrast to many sheltered
housing schemes, which only provide an emergency call system. MHA provides both resident wardens and emergency call systems.
There is a residents' lounge and adjoining kitchen, used extensively by the tenants and the local house committees for social
functions. There are wellequipped communal laundries and a guest room where relatives can stay overnight for a very nominal charge. The newer schemes are provided with assisted bathrooms.
Since its inception, the
MHA has received more than £4.5 million in government grants, which entail certain obligations, such as providing a proportion of lettings to nominees of the local housing authority. Tenancy allocations are on a 50-50 basis, half being available to the local authority and half to an open waiting list, the latter being drawn up from direct applications to the MHA.
Those with a Masonic connection form a large part of this list.
Local authorities cannot impose nominations on the
MHA. Selection of tenants is by a system that includes a home interview, with the final decision remaining with the MHA committee members, delegated to the local housing committees.
Compass Housing Association is a sister organisation to the MHA, with 37 flats and bungalows on a delightful site in St Austell, Cornwall. The properties are not rented, as with M HA, but are sold on long leases.
The properties come on to the market from time to time, and currently sell at about £75,000. A service charge of £72 a month covers the
costs of a warden, garden maintenance, general repairs and so on. Properties are marketed nationwide, but there is a high percentage of residents with Masonic connections.
This Association is not registered with the Housing Corporation, is self-funding
and has not received any public money, so there are no restrictions on who can buy the properties.
Apart from the fact that the properties are owned by
the residents, there is no difference in the
management of the scheme from a MHA scheme. There is a very active local house
committee drawn from the members of the Lodges that meet in St Austell and it is strongly supported by the Provincial Grand Master for the Province of Cornwall.
In the future, these Masonic organisations will expand in two ways. First, with the age of those
entering MHA's accommodation steadily increasing and tenants living longer and becoming frailer, there is a need to convert the existing sheltered schemes to extra care sheltered housing. MHA now has nearly 100 tenants in their eighties and 15 tenants over the age of 90. The average age at entry has increased from 73 years to 78 years in the past four years.
Second, the majority of applicants for accommodation are now homeowners who would
benefit from being able to purchase leasehold properties such as in the Compass Housing Association scheme at St Austell. Not only would they benefit from remaining on the 'property ladder' but this bel1efit would also accrue to their children.
The MHA and Compass Housing Association work very closely with the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution. The RM BI can only assist applicants who are masonically qualified, whereas MHA and Compass can assist both masonically qualified and other applicants, thereby
presenting Freemasonry as offering benefits to the wider community. Brian Smith, Chairman of MHA and Compass is also President of the RMBI, and Peter Gray, Chief Executive of the RMBI, is a board member of both M HA and Compass.
The Masonic Housing Association and Compass Housing Association show, in practical terms, how Freemasons are involved in their local communities, providing security, comfort and independence for the elderly. It is an achievement about which Freemasonry can be proud..
Masonic Housing Association schemes
Prebendal Close, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire - 1980, 30 units
Hamilton Court, South Woodham Ferrers, Essex - 1983, 43 units
Palmer Court, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire - 1987, 24 units
Reading Court, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire - 1987, 45 units
Wilson Keys Court, Rugeley, Staffordshire - 1992, 34 units
Web site created by Mark Griffin