The Welsh charity 'making a difference' turning old buildings into social housing

A charity in Wales is turning old buildings into social homes in a bid to help tackle the ongoing housing crisis.

Housing Justice Cymru has built 75 homes so far, after finding suitable sites in towns and cities across Wales, often redundant church land.

Bonnie Williams, the director of Housing Justice Cymru said, "We know that people in social housing are often on low incomes so they need to be in and around amenities, transport links and all of the things that they need to live their lives.

"But we also know that the buildings that we're talking about here, so churches, community halls, social clubs that are declining, are the perfect venue for social housing.

"So we really do need people to come on this journey and to recognise that if they're a land owner, if they're a service owner, with space capacity, space land, spare buildings. Please think about social housing."

So far, this project has built 75 social housing properties in Wales.

The Welsh Government has completed around a quarter of its target of building 20,000 affordable homes by 2026.

However, according to recent available data, around 90,000 households are on the waiting list for social housing. This is an increase of 40% over the past five years.

In November 2022, around 9,000 people were in temporary or emergency accommodation. But that figure increased to more than 11,000 in November 2023.

With demand for housing outweighing supply, the charity brings together community groups and housing associations to make use of redundant sites.

Albany Baptist Church in Roath has a thriving community hub, but the older church hall was rarely used.

Albany Baptist Church in Cardiff will have 12 new affordable homes on-site.

When Peter Littlechild, the church's community coordinator, was asked if he would be open to reconfiguring the whole site, he said: "Churches as a whole need to evolve, serving their communities and being seven days a week churches.

"The biggest social need in our area is social housing and we were able to accommodate that by working with partners to be able to provide not only social housing but to transform the community space into a bespoke community hub.

"We just hope that together we can make a difference."

By autumn 2024, there will be 12 new affordable homes on-site at the church.

Alongside charity projects such as this, the Welsh Government is also working to make use of empty buildings.

A spokesperson said: "In January 2023, we announced a £50million Empty Homes Grant. scheme to bring up to 2,000 long-term empty properties across Wales back into use through the Empty Homes Grant scheme.

"Through the scheme, grants of up to £25,000 are available to owner occupiers or prospective owner occupiers to make properties safe, warm and secure to live in.

"Our Transforming Towns programme has already begun to deliver real change, and our commitment of an additional £125 million over three years will further benefit communities across Wales."

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