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.
We’ve been at our training workshop in Rotherhithe for about 12 years now. Our Lease from Southwark Council has recently expired but we’re pleased to inform that after negotiations with Southwark a new ten year Lease has been agreed. The less happy side is that our rent goes up about 65%. So if anyone fancies chipping in to help on this, please contact us. In the meantime, here’s to another ten years of construction training in Rotherhithe.
Our friends at the charity Action on Empty Homes have published a report this month titled ‘Retrofit Empty Homes Action Partnerships’. It looks at how communities can unlock empty homes through a process of retrofitting them at scale and at speed. The report identifies retrofitting empty homes as a crucial piece of the transition to net zero. It also explores the spillover effects of community-led retrofitting, including job-creation in emerging green industries and upskilling in local economies. Pop over to their website and have a look.
We don’t usually feature the maintenance work we do on our renovated empty properties, many of which require extra TLC as the years go by. These maintenance jobs offer great opportunities for our trainees to hone their skills. A quick mention here for some recently completed work at a three-storey house we have in Beckton, East London. We’d had recurring problems with the roof over the years so decided to invest in some tech and had a drone fly over the property. It revealed all sorts of issues which we’ve now been able to remedy ! A big shout out to our helpful drone contractors on this one – Sparks4Growth.
After two years badly affected by Covid, our trainee numbers have recovered this year as we approach Christmas. We’ve had 21 trainees through the workshop door during 2022 with over half of them ex-services personnel. Particular congratulations to our Trainee of the year, George, who, after completing our workshop course, went on to complete specialist groundwork training and found full-time work at the nearby Canada Water regeneration project.
Our friends at the charity, Action on Empty Homes, continue to call for the expansion of Government funding to support communities refurbishing long-term empty homes. The last National Empty Homes Programme, which helped PHASES to bring a number of empty properties back into use, ended in 2015. Since then, the number of long-term empty homes in England has actually risen by 38,000. Action on Empty Homes has been touring the party conferences this autumn and has the support of all the main political parties. We hope this will translate into real funding in the near future.
Our funding through the EQUIP programme (partly financed by the European Social Fund) has enabled us to increase the number of our people progressing onto further trade-specific training. In particular, four of our trainees have progressed on to courses this year at the Builder Training Centre in Croydon. Three have developed their advanced tiling skills and another has embarked on training for an electrical qualification. All of these trainees are ex-servicemen.
We’ve popped up fairly regularly in the Big Issue over the years. This is partly because they like what we do – our linking of construction and homelessness. And also because their ‘Big Issue Invest’ arm has lent us money for empty property renovation projects. Our Chief Executive is interviewed this month on the Big Issue digital edition, talking all about PHASES and its origins.
We haven’t updated for quite a while on our aspirations to get involved in new build projects. The pandemic put these ideas on hold but since then we’ve been looking at various possible avenues. Most recently, our contacts at Southwark Council put us in touch with a private owner in Nunhead who wanted to convert an existing shop and flats into seven units for social housing. We carried out a thorough assessment of the project but sadly decided that it wouldn’t add up for us. Our search continues…
The Government announced a consultation on a new ‘Right to Regenerate’ back in January. This would enable the public to convert vacant plots of land and derelict buildings into new houses or community spaces. Under the proposals, charities and other community organisations would have first right of refusal to purchase underused land and buildings in England, with land to be sold by default unless there is a compelling reason not to. PHASSES fed into the consultation which concluded at the end of March. We currently await the outcome as this type of legislation could open the way for future projects.
It’s twenty years ago this month that PHASES first began its journey and registered as a charity. Back then our name was Advocates for the Homeless and we concentrated on advice to homeless people across London. Over the past 15 years we’ve focussed on training homeless people in construction skills and renovating empty homes. We’ve brought over twenty properties back into use as affordable accommodation and trained more than 200 homeless people in that time. Thanks to all the people and organisations who have supported us in our work since 2001 !