Back to life

One of our areas of expertise is in the conversion and renovation of empty homes. All renovations can bring surprises, but a home that has been empty for many decades presents particular challenges. Many of the empty homes we have taken on have had quite serious structural issues which need to be addressed before other work can start. Some of these structural issues arise from a lack of the routine maintenance that every building needs. Sometimes, they may be the result of wilful damage, like arson. Empty homes can often be the focus of anti-social behaviour.

In Brockley, we worked on a large Victorian house which had been empty for over 20 years. Sadly, over the years the house had deteriorated and the structural problems deepened. The owner had suffered personal and financial difficulties, so it was just not possible for him to take on a costly renovation and the property had become a real burden. And as it slipped into dereliction, it became a local eyesore.

Hyde Housing Association had looked at the property, but decided they couldn’t make it work as a project. That’s when PHASES stepped in. We initially agreed a ten year lease with the owner. We received grants towards the cost of the works through the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme and from the London Borough of Lewisham. In addition, we borrowed £60,000 from the Big Issue Invest. As a charity, we were able to draw on heavily subsidised input from our brilliant structural engineer and architect. The plan was to provide 3 bedroom and 4 bedroom flats for local families suffering serious overcrowding.

Once the site was cleared and made safe, we were able to offer placements to those trainees ready to progress from their initial course, into guided learning on site. This gave them a chance to hone their new skills and gain valuable experience alongside the professionals. We were also able to offer job opportunities to some of our trainees. Two were employed directly by PHASES, while the other two were employed by our contracted builder.

The project was delivered within the original budget and provided much-needed affordable homes for local families, close to excellent shops and transport links, as well as outstanding schools.

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