Stories of what didn’t work can be as instructive in the long run as things that did. So I’m leaving this here, in case there may yet be more story to tell…
There’s something about being in an actual printed newspaper that confirms an ideas existence more than anything digital can. And this week Coming Home’s existence has been confirmed by the Liverpool Echo.
Knowing though that many of this blog’s readers don’t live around Liverpool or even in England I thought I’d reproduce Echo journalist Josh Parry’s article about us on here. So here it is.
How one affordable housing scheme is transforming Liverpool’s empty properties.
‘Coming Home’ team tackling both housing shortage and empty homes problem.
Work is underway on a radical new service which hopes to tackle Liverpool’s housing shortage by helping owners of empty homes to renovate them.
Coming Home, spearheaded by Ronnie Hughes – who worked on the Turner Prize-winning Granby 4 streets project – with co-director and local artist Jayne Lawless, is a social enterprise started with the hope of tackling both the shortage of housing in Liverpool and the number of empty homes in the city.
Work to convert their first home – an empty house on City Road in Walton – into affordable housing is now in progress and already has tenants lined up for when the work is complete.
The radical new scheme will see the Coming Home team renovate empty homes on behalf of their owners – and then recuperate their costs from affordable rents.
Director of the scheme Ronnie says he was inspired to start the project after discussing Liverpool’s housing problems with friend Jayne.
He said: “There are 9,000 empty homes in Liverpool and most of them are just in ones and twos in otherwise perfectly settled streets. They add up to a lot in the end. We think they could be lived in without very much trouble really. If you’ve inherited an empty home because a relative has died or gone into care then you probably just don’t have the money needed to do it up enough to let it out.
“One of the main ways we differ from normal landlords is we’re renting out at fair rent. A lot of landlords will rent out to the upper limit of the housing benefit rate for the area.
“We’ve had investment in us so we can come in, work with you on your home. We don’t take ownership on it we just do the work to sort it out and then we find tenants to live there and the home is a happy place again.
“We want to create stable homes. They won’t be let out on short term contracts. They’ll be on secure assured tenancies so people can stay as long as they like.”
The scheme has been compared to the work on Granby 4 Streets. But instead of focussing on whole areas they will target streets with one or two empty homes before they become a problem.
“Everybody knows about Granby, Anfield, Everton and the Welsh Streets where there’s lots of empty homes all together. But actually most of them in the city are not together, they’re all over the place,” Ronnie added.
“With Coming Home we’re working on these individual houses on generally settled streets.
“City Road is a quiet place to live, in between Stanley and Walton Hall Parks and close to loads of shops. It’s just got an empty house in it – like many other streets in the city – that we are turning into a home again.”
The houses will be renovated with the new tenant’s preferences in mind – meaning they have input into the style and design of the home.
“At the moment we’re just basically reducing the house to the rooms and the walls and doing the plastering but just after Christmas we’ll get the family round here with us and the builder.
“We’ll plan out the colour scheme and the television aerial points and what they might want and need. Traditionally we’ll be making all those decisions now – and then people will have to come in and maybe repaint a room we’ve just painted. There’s no sense in that.
“There’ll be no magnolia. I’ve never knowingly been involved in doing a magnolia house.”
The owner of the first property to be renovated by Coming Home is Clare Kinsella – a PHD researcher who inherited the house from her father.
She says she didn’t know what to do with the property but wanted to keep it in the family.
She said: “I’m completing my PHD and I went along to a talk that Ronnie was involved in and he was talking about his new project Coming Home and it just sounded perfect.
“I’m very passionate about housing and affordable housing and I’m also really passionate about the area.”
Once the home is complete, it will remain Clare’s property – but it will be rented out on a long-term lease, with the cost of the renovation being repaid from the funds raised from the rent.
Clare added: “I’ve got some very happy memories in that house and the fact that it will be renovated for another family to live in makes me happy. Someone else can make their memories in that house, and the fact that it’s going to add to Liverpool’s affordable housing stock is even better.
“I feel like, in a small way, it’s my way of giving back to the community. I grew up here and it’s important to me.”
You can see Josh’s original article, plus a filmed interview here on the Liverpool Echo website.