Using Empty Property To Provide Training In Building Skills
Watch Brockley Grove being renovated – read about the project below.
PHASES (People Housing and Social Enterprise Scheme) is a small registered charity which originated in South East London. Its projects explore different ways in which construction work can improve both the environment and the lives of its trainees.
It helps a wide range of marginalised people – the homeless, offenders, those with health problems and the long-term unemployed. PHASES found that some of their clients had experience in construction but had lost touch with it due to their personal problems and that others wanted to move in that direction, but needed to acquire skills and qualifications. However, they were aware that opportunities to get onto construction training courses in London were limited and that what was available tended to be too inflexible for their clients and provided insufficient support.
PHASES therefore decided to set up some training of their own which would be in a real working environment and in a building which would actually be renovated for occupation. They used their contacts in Southwark and spoke with the Regeneration department of the Council, hoping to sell their idea to them. Ultimately, they were able to secure a 10 year lease on a disused 1960s former GP’s surgery in Camberwell next to a tower block, which comprised a ground floor surgery with a three bed flat above which used to be attached to the surgery. The building had been empty for about seven years, but had no major structural issues.
After assembling funding (see below) they began the training and renovation programme in August 2007. The downstairs was renovated as offices for themselves and another charity. The first floor was re-instated as a self-contained three-bed flat with living room and kitchen and has been let to a family on the Council’s waiting list.
PHASES has grown significantly since 2012 as a result of receiving funding via the DCLG’s Empty Homes Community Grants Programme. By 2015, it had renovated 5 houses and 10 flats ,acquired/leased from private landlords, with EHCGP funding. All of these are now let out as affordable housing. The two largest renovations were houses in Brockley which had both been empty for over 20 years and were largely derelict (see before and after picture above). Both properties provided a wealth of training opportunities and now provide 5 high quality flats for tenants who were previously in very poor housing conditions.
PHASES has also spread geographically to East London (Newham) and to the South Coast (Worthing and Littlehampton) where it had already had an administration office for a number of years.
Brockley Grove before renovation
Brockley Grove after renovation
During these projects trainees learn various skills including: plaster boarding; plastering; carpentry; and painting & decorating. They also have the chance to develop their skills working as a team. In addition, they are provided with support to access further training and ultimately paid employment. That said, some trainees simply want to improve their DIY skills in readiness for a move from a hostel to their own self-contained accommodation.
PHASES initially accessed Empty Homes grant through Southwark Council and through separate foundations and trusts. The bulk of their subsequent funding for property renovations from 2012-15 has come through the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme, supplemented by loans from social investors Big Issue Invest and Unity Bank.
For more info:phases.org.uk