As a community construction charity, PHASES needs to keep abreast of any changes in policy which might impact our affordable housing projects. As a training organisation, we’re conscious that our courses need to reflect industry needs, so that our trainees have reelvant skills. As a social enterprise, we’re busy finding ways to share best practice and to be more effective. Here’s what we’ve been doing lately to keep up to date in the fast-paced construction sector.
With no imminent empty property projects ahead and PHASES’ plans for a first new build project still in the early stages, we have announced a plan to carry out a series of maintenance works at a number of our properties. This will initially take place at six of our properties during the year and will provide trainees with experience in electrical maintenance, carpentry, plastering and painting and decorating.
We held an ‘awards’ ceremony in Camberwell for some of the 18 trainees who had passed through our workshop training phase during the year. All of these trainees had successfully completed our multi-skills course at the Rotherhithe workshop. They included ex-services personnel, refugees and trainees who had come through drug and alcohol problems. Seven of these trainees had gained additional on-site work experience on our empty property renovation projects.
Works were completed in early summer on one of our biggest projects under the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme – 340 Brockley Road. This property had been empty for over 20 years and consists of a bedsit, a one-bed flat and a two-bed flat over three floors. Initial work involved removal of asbestos, the taking down of a chimney and soundproofing. Internal walls were then reconfigured and new partitions created. All windows were removed and fitted with new double-glazed units and the property was then fully fitted-out. This project created a wealth of training opportunities in the different construction skills areas and over the 12 month period six different trainees were involved and two paid workers who were former trainees. All three flats are now occupied as affordable rented accommodation.
We have completed on the purchase of a second property in London under the Empty Homes Community Grants Fund. This was on another 4 bedroom property in Becton, East London, which had been empty for over a year. Additional finance for this purchase was provided by our bank – Unity Trust. Refurbishment works have also now been completed by our team on this property, ready for letting.
PHASES has completed the purchase of its first property in London. This is a 4-bed house in Beckton, East London. This was partly financed by grant funding from the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme and partly by borrowing from The Big Issue Invest, a social enterprise lender which is an offshoot of the Big Issue magazine.
PHASES has completed the purchase of four empty properties in the Worthing and Littlehampton areas. The three 3-bed houses and one 1-bed flat were purchased using grant funding under the government’s Empty Homes Community Grants Programme together with borrowing from Unity Trust Bank Plc. The properties will all be renovated for use as social housing by early 2015. These are the first properties ever to be purchased by the charity.
A one bedroom flat in Kennington has been completed by PHASES under the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme. The flat had been empty for over 5 years, having been left by the owner when his wife had died. Over the years the owner had found it harder and harder to return until one of our volunteers painstakingly went through all of the belongings he had left behind with him. Renovation work was then able to start and the flat now provides high quality accommodation for social rent.
Work has been completed on PHASES’ largest project to date – the renovation of a derelict Victorian house on Brockley Grove. The property had been empty for over 20 years and work was funded partly from the Empty Homes Community Grants Fund and partly from Lewisham Council. Work took approximately one year and provided construction training opportunities for six trainees. Two former trainees were also employed on site by the building contractor. The property now provides two great flats (one 3-bed and one 4-bed) for two families who were previously in poor quality overcrowded accommodation. An opening event took place in August with over 50 guests. Councillor Susan Wise, attending for Lewisham, stated: “I am very pleased to see this problematic long term empty being brought back into life. PHASES have not only worked hard to repair this property but have given work experience opportunities to apprentices to develop their knowledge and skills in the building trade’’.
PHASES has been successful in its bid to Round Two of the government’s Empty Homes Community Grants Programme. Funding of £590k has been secured from the Department of Communities and Local Government to purchase three properties in the Lewes, Brighton & Hove and Adur & Worthing Council areas. This second round of funding had a slant towards bringing empty commercial premises back into use as residential accommodation. The planned centrepiece project is conversion of a disused light-industrial building in Peacehaven to provide 21 bedspaces.