First residents move into YMCA Exeter's renovated warehouse

The first residents have moved into YMCA Exeter's newly converted warehouse off Sidwell Street.

The development, Sidwell Studios, is part of a 'groundbreaking' initiative to tackle the housing crisis in Exeter.

Over the past 18 months, the abandoned warehouse has been converted into 26 self-contained studio apartments.

Each one is ready to welcome a local, young person who has come through supported housing and is in need of a permanent home.

Since 2019, the need for one-bed accommodation has increased by 41% with 600 young people on the waiting list.

YMCA Exeter has completed the renovation, which cost £3million, due to investment from Homes England, Exeter City Council and many individual donations.

Gemma Matthews says she is 'so happy' to finally have her own place. Credit: ITV West Country

Gemma Matthews, aged 26, is one of the first residents to move in. She is 'so excited' to finally have her own place: "I jumped up and down in the kitchen when I heard I'd got a place.

"Everyone is so happy for me. I couldn't have afforded a place in the centre of town with the current market rates, it would have been my whole month's salary. 

"I'm now going to live closer to my Mum and my employees have offered me the chance to become a shift leader in a local shop.

"This new place is a dream come true."

The monthly rent for the flats is £300pm cheaper than the market rate - that includes all utilities and wifi costs.

Residents also do not need to pay a deposit or any rent upfront. These factors are often significant barriers for young people when trying to live independently in Exeter.

There are 2,000 people on the Devon Home Choice waiting list for one-bed accommodation.

Si Johns, YMCA Exeter Joint CEO says: "It's wonderful to have local, young people moving into their new studio apartments this month.

"Our vision is to support young people to become embedded in their communities and this month we are celebrating that 26 young people will now have permanent, affordable homes in the heart of Exeter. 

"What we see in all new developments is that there are no one-beds being built, certainly no one-beds.

"Whilst we know that building one-bed accommodation won't necessarily generate as much income for companies, it's still a great need that we need to address.

There are 2,000 people on the Devon Home Choice waiting list for one-bed accommodation. Credit: ITV West Country

"We couldn't have completed this development without the support of local businesses, friends and volunteers.

"It's been a team effort from start to finish and we're excited for further opportunities to tackle the housing crisis in the future."   

The housing initiative is based on a model which aims to help young people embed in their community, but also be financially safe for them.

The new development sits adjacent to St Sidwell's Community Centre - giving the opportunity for residents to access vocational skills workshops, a community allotment and weekly community meals.

Si Johns added: "For many young people, the risk of losing work makes it difficult for them to find rented accommodation.

"In the new Sidwell Studios, YMCA Exeter tenancy workers will provide early intervention if any tenant starts to struggle to get the tenancy back on track."