A MERGER of two not-for-profit housing giants sees a new organisation in control of Andover’s former “council houses”.

The Aster Group, which has local offices in Andover, has pledged to deliver even better “value and quality” to over 75,000 customers, including building affordable homes in Hampshire, after successfully merging with Synergy Housing based in Dorset.

The merger creates a £145 million turnover not-for-profit business, with assets of over £1 billion and employing more than 1,500 staff spread across Hampshire and six other counties.

The new group has 75,000 customers, many of whom were originally tenants of Testway Housing or Kennet’s Sarsen Housing Association which were created through the process of Large Scale Voluntary Transfer in the 1990s.

It will manage more than 27,000 affordable homes through its businesses Aster Communities and Synergy Housing.

It will also carry out 60,000 repairs and maintenance jobs a year through Aster Property and provide care and support for around 20,000 customers through Aster Living.

And the new group’s development business Aster Homes will build around 600 new homes each year from 2013, for open market sale and for rent as affordable housing.

This means Aster Group will be able to build around 1,500 new affordable homes across the south and south west over the next three years.

Bjorn Howard, chief executive of the enlarged group, said the merger meant the new group would be “bold and brave” where it could “make a positive difference” to local communities.

He said: “By running a financially strong and growing business we can focus on putting customers at the heart of everything we do.

“This merger is a clear sign of the support we have from our staff, our many business partners, our lenders, and our tenants and other customers.”