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Public woodland to build eco- homes for vulnerable youngsters

Hill Holt Wood renovates empty homes thanks to Triodos Bank loan

19-11-2014 | A public woodland and social enterprise in Lincolnshire has secured funding to provide affordable supported accommodation for vulnerable young people.

Thanks to a loan from Triodos Bank, Hill Holt Wood, which already offers a range of training and support services to teenagers and young adults, will renovate six homes in Gainsborough as part of the national Empty Homes Project.

The project will be funded by the Empty Homes Community Grant Programme,  West Lindsey District Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government; a loan from Triodos Bank will finance Hill Holt Wood’s work.

"We were already aware of the type of businesses that Triodos Bank funds," explains Tim Sleight, head of finance at Hill Holt Wood, "and as we are a social enterprise, we try to use work with other social businesses, so Triodos was the obvious choice."

Each home will have three or four bedrooms and have a high eco spec. Hill Holt Wood will also be using local materials, including timber from the woods they manage.

"We will use local labour wherever possible and the construction work will provide young, unemployed and low-skilled people in the community with an opportunity for training and development," said Tim.

Once finished, the homes will be let to those in need within the community, with special preference to young people in need of safe and secure living space.

Hill Holt Wood already runs educational programmes for 12-24 year olds, looks after 300 acres of open space – parks, other woodlands, footpaths etc – on behalf of the council, operates The Hive Cafe and has a conference centre available for hire. It also runs Design:hhw a small architectural practice that provides internships for graduating students and specializes in sustainable design; Design:hhw will be contracted to help with the eco spec of the new homes.

It is thanks to this diversification that Hill Holt Wood is able to continue to reinvest into the community through schemes like the Empty Homes Project.

"Once the tenants are living in the homes, we will help develop their living skills such as cooking, hygiene and finance management. The idea being that eventually, once they have gained suitable sustainable employment, these young people will be much more independent and able to move into a bigger property or even part-purchase a home," said Tim.

Renovation of three of the houses is complete and fully let, and there is already a waiting list of potential new residents. Rent comes from a mix of housing benefit, support package fees and direct rent from those who are working, and is then reinvested into supporting tenants and renovating more accommodation in the area.

Mark Ogden, relationship manager at Triodos said: "South West Ward is one of the most deprived wards in Lincolnshire -more than 20 per cent of properties are empty with many more are in desperate need of restoration. We are therefore delighted to be able to support Hill Holt Wood in such a worthwhile project."

Tim concludes: "We believe that by targeting specific areas, streets can be reclaimed one house at a time, improving overall quality of life and property values at the same time."

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