19 Feb 2016

Communal custom build offers new hope to homeless ex-forces personnel

Communal custom build offers new hope to homeless ex-forces personnel

A communal housing project in York Road, Bedminster, Bristol has seen 10 custom built homes come onto the market for rent by the homeless ex-service personnel who had a hand in building them. The site includes 1- and 2-bedroom properties, including two specifically designed for those with disabilities.

The project was brought forward with input from the Community Self Build Agency (CSBA) and ex-military SAS major Ken Hames, who developed the concept of enfranchising homeless ex-forces personnel through self build. It offered the opportunity for the members to get involved in a ‘train and build’ programme that would enable them to build work skills and improve their lives at the same time.

Knightstone Housing Association bought the site and secured capital funding, as well as securing the main contractor, United Living. Experience has shown that being involved with building their own home helps isolated people re-engage with the community, as well as building confidence to enhance their employability.

This is the second train-and-build development for Knightstone. A third project is starting on site at Lawrence Court in Weston-Super-Mare, which will see the buildng of 14 new homes for ex-service personnel, with completion expected in May 2017. Knightstone Housing will again be working with the CSBA on the project, which will be funded by Knightstone, the Homes and Communities Agency, and North Somerset Council.

“This development [has equipped] a remarkable self-build team with the skills they need to thrive in the construction sector. The fact that several of the ex-service personnel have now secured full-time employment is testament to the success of this project,” said Stuart Laird, COO and Managing Director (South) for United Living.

Editor’s comment

The Government’s 2012 homelessness strategy stated that 4% of homeless UK nationals sleeping rough in London claimed to have been in the forces at some point, and it is believed that 1 in 4 of Bristol’s homeless are ex-forces personnel. Custom build projects like this offer a route back to society, offering skills, confidence and ultimately homes to a vulnerable portion of society. This model offers a route to build that would be good to see repeated on larger sites such as Ebbsfleet Garden Village and Graven Hill, further rounding out the custom build offering.

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