The first part of an innovative combined project to build 63 new affordable homes close to Leeds city centre is due to be completed later this year.
Half of the properties will form a new co-housing community, one of around just 20 in the country.
Work on the £9.3m development at Leopold Street in Chapeltown began in the summer of 2019, with the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Eileen Taylor, laying the first stone.
Despite some delays associated with the pandemic, Unity is on course to complete 30 one- and two-bed flats for people aged 55 and over by November.
ChaCo’s element of the scheme – comprising 29 houses and flats, a ‘common house’ and space for three self build units – is expected to be ready in March 2022.
Co-housing is a means of bringing individuals and families together in groups to share common aims and activities whilst enjoying their own self-contained accommodation.
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As well as their own private homes, everyone has the use of shared facilities in the ‘common house’ which includes washing machines, guest rooms and a large kitchen and dining room where everyone can eat.
Homes England provided £1.4m in grant support to the project with the Housing Infrastructure Fund allocating £1.34m.
The remaining finance was secured by a combination of private finance and savings from ChaCo stakeholders, who will live in the cohousing properties upon completion.
‘A model that could be replicated’
Commenting on the development, Cedric Boston, Unity Interim’s chief executive, said: “The concept behind this scheme is to connect residents to the community, even when they are inside their home by having the ability to look out to the shared space, keep in touch with the everyday lives of friends and neighbours, and come out to join them.
“From Unity’s point of view, it is part of a bigger picture to provide high-quality accommodation for older people, supporting them moving out of large family properties and backfilling these with families who urgently need that form of housing.
“It is Unity’s second purpose built facility to support this strategic objective, the first being a £3.2m development of 28 affordable homes for the over-55s in nearby Chapel Allerton, which officially opened in June 2016.”
Alison Phelps, a member of ChaCo’s Neighbourhood Task Group, said: “It has been a long journey for all of us, and it is so exciting to know that we are now just six months from reaching our destination.
“The pandemic affected us hugely after the original contractor went out of business.
“But working collectively with Unity, we re-contracted with Torpoint, who saw this as a living project that they could take on and we remain hugely grateful that they did.”
She continued: “The COVID restrictions also impacted on the community side of cohousing and limited our endeavours to get to know each other before we move into the new properties next year.
“However, as soon as there was a little easing of lockdown, we started a monthly litter pick around the edge of the site.
“It was outdoor and socially distanced, but we could see each other’s faces. That has been really fulfilling.”
Wayne Noteman, Unity’s Regeneration director, added: “This ambitious scheme has been seven years in the making following our initial meeting with ChaCo.
“The process has been really rewarding, to see a fledgling community organisation come together and show the resilience not only to get the project up and running, but to see it through to the end.
“There have been many challenges and knock-backs along the way, but everyone has been tenacious and kept at it.
“I believe this is a model that could be replicated across Leeds and the country.”
Main image: (R-L) Wayne Noteman, Unity’s Regeneration director; Cedric Boston, Unity’s interim CEO; Yoseph Ahmed, prospective member, ChaCo; and Alison Phelps, a member of Chaco’s Neighbourhood Task Group
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