A former paramedic and armed forces veteran has had his life 'transformed' by a new wheelchair accessible bungalow in Seaham.
Derek Stenson was finding life in his previous, private rented house difficult, but his new bungalow has changed all that.
“I couldn’t manage the stairs it was getting ridiculous; here I’ve been transformed. My mental health has been transformed. It’s really quiet, we used to live on a main road.” Said Derek, who served in the armed forces from the age of 16 and worked in the coal industry before becoming a paramedic in Wales.
The new bungalow is the first three-bedroom dormer bungalow completed by County Durham-based believe housing on a redundant site in Seaham. The housing association has built a pair of the dormer bungalows alongside 16 traditional two-bedroom bungalows as part of a 48-home development in Heathway in the Parkside area of the east Durham town.
All the new homes are part of believe housing’s £90m, 700 home new-build programme. The award-winning programme is bringing new homes to dozens of sites across the region by 2022. It is also supporting around 2,100 jobs and providing new apprenticeship opportunities.
The programme has already completed bungalows in locations like Rookhope and St Helen Auckland, but the pair in Seaham are the first designed to help larger families like Derek’s who need a home suitable for wheelchair users.
Derek moved into his new wheelchair-accessible home with his wife Donna, two children and their pets once coronavirus restrictions allowed construction to be completed.
“The wet room has made a 100 per cent difference.” Added Derek. “I’ve got limited movement in my shoulders. It’s like I’ve been given a second chance, I’m very independent.”
believe housing is backing the National Housing Federation’s ‘Homes at the Heart’ campaign. The campaign is calling for more investment in social housing as a means of tackling the housing crisis and injecting boosting the economy and creating jobs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Executive of believe housing, Bill Fullen, said: “It’s great to see that Derek and his family have settled in so quickly. The new bungalow is clearly making a major difference to the quality of their lives.
“Obviously our new homes are designed to help people like Derek, but they also help the economy, provide jobs and transform brownfield sites. There are few investments that can provide a better return for our communities. That’s why we’re backing calls for more investment in social housing as a key part of the recovery from coronavirus.”
A redundant site in the Parkside area of Seaham has been transformed with 48 new low-cost homes by a leading housing association.
The 30 family homes and 18 bungalows have been built on a brown field site in Heathway by Seaham based believe housing. The last new families are due to move in this month after construction, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, was completed.
All 30 of the three-bedroom family houses have been constructed as part of the m!ne ‘Rent to Buy’ programme. m!ne is believe housing’s rent to buy arm.
The homes created by m!ne help to bridge the gap between rental and traditional home ownership, allowing more people to climb the property ladder. The government backed initiative is designed to ease the transition from renting to buying a home by providing subsidised rent; usually around 20% below the market rate.
Claire Coakley and her partner have been living in the area for some time, but thought that the up-front cash required to buy a new house was impossible for them to achieve until they learnt about m!ne.
“We’d been looking to buy but saving the deposit meant we couldn’t. We’ve been renting, then we saw this come up. This was a lot cheaper.” Said Claire.
“The day before lockdown we were meant to get our keys, but it was worth the wait. I can’t believe how big the house is. It’s lovely; it feels like a home already.”
Nearly 200 new-build homes have now been completed under the ‘m!ne’ Rent to Buy programme. They are part of an award-winning 700 home construction project by believe housing to meet demand for affordable housing in the north east.
Development Project Manager from believe housing, Rebecca Marshall, said: “It’s great to see families settling into their new homes now. These homes were created specifically to help people who had no other route onto the property ladder and they’re doing just that.
“There might have been a short delay during the height of the pandemic, but we got our construction back on track as soon as it was safe to. Now we’re back underway at all of our new-build sites, supporting local jobs and the economy as well as providing high-quality affordable housing.”
Universal Credit systems will be changed so that social landlords receive direct rent payments on the same day that tenants are paid the rest of their benefits from next month, the government has announced.
The change is expected to save housing associations and councils thousands of hours in administrative work.
The practice of refusing to rent homes to those in receipt of housing benefit has been ruled unlawful in the first ‘No DSS’ discrimination case to be heard by a UK court.
The case was led by the strategic litigation team at Shelter, which has campaigned on the issue of No DSS discrimination for several years.
In 2018, research by Shelter and the National Housing Federation found that at least one in 10 homes for rent advertised online said the home would not be rented to those on housing benefit.
A successful funding programme has been expanded to cover projects that will help communities recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
County Durham-based believe housing has already distributed more than £20,000 of funding to coronavirus related projects. But now the housing association is extending its community funding programme to support recovery from the pandemic.
The new ‘recovery grants’ will follow the same model as the existing community funding programme. Applications for grants of up to £500 are open to community groups, organisations or schools that work in areas covered by believe housing. A simple application process will be maintained to ensure that fast turnaround funding decisions can take place and get work underway.
Recovery grants are intended to support projects that can be delivered within two months and follow current government guidance on coronavirus, such as social distancing advice. Groups that have already received funding from believe housing’s Coronavirus Crisis Fund can apply for an additional recovery grant.
believe housing is keen to hear from community groups in most parts of County Durham, and some neighbouring areas, with projects to keep vulnerable people connected, and to provide help with food at a time when many people are seeing new financial difficulties due to the economic impact of the virus.
believe housing Funding Officer, Damian Pearson, said: “Although we all hope that the peak of the coronavirus pandemic is well behind us, we know that the need to support our communities has not reduced at all.
“These new recovery grants are intended to help community groups meet some of the huge demand that we’re already seeing for support in the rapidly changing world around us.”
Full details of recovery grants from believe housing’s Community Funding Programme are available on the believe housing website, or by calling the Community Investment Team on 0300 1311 999.