Community Impact Week: Keeping local people in the communities they grew up in

This week (6-12 November) is the National Housing Federation’s ‘Community Impact Week’.
This week celebrates the innovative projects and programmes run by housing associations up and down the country which help to transform people’s lives, and the communities in which they live.

Community is incredibly important to our work and this is reflected in our model of developing new homes for and with local communities in rural areas. When we develop new homes, it is the community that recognises the need for more homes, it is the community that decides where and how these homes are to be delivered, and it is the community who are there right through to the day when local families move into their new homes.

To celebrate Community Impact Week, we are handing over to our residents to let them explain what having an affordable home in the rural community they grew up in, work in or have family in has meant to them.

Kirsty Sayer, her husband Liam and their three daughters live in an affordable Hastoe home in the pretty East Sussex village of Brede. For Kirsty in particular, their new home has given her the opportunity to remain in the village where she grew up, and where she’s always wanted to raise her family.

Kirsty was raised in Brede and went to the village primary school. As an adult, she moved away – living in nearby Northiam in a private rented flat – but when she and her husband Liam wanted to start a family, it became important for both of them to move back to Brede, where Kirsty’s parents live. For a while they lived with Kirsty’s mum and dad and then in a council house nearby, but with three young daughters, they really needed a place of their own.

Enter Hastoe. One of England’s leading providers of affordable rural homes, Hastoe had been working with Brede Parish Council and Rother District Council since March 2015 on a site for 13 homes on the edge of the village. Rother District Council had done a lot of work to secure the site, but this process took a number of years, and, during that time Rother’s original housing association partner withdrew, threatening the development. Hastoe stepped into the breach and building of the new homes started in March 2015.

Kirsty takes up the story: “My mum had told me about the idea of affordable homes in the village about seven years ago, after she’d been to a Parish Council meeting. I put my name down to register interest, but I didn’t hear anything and I thought the idea had gone away. But then a couple of years ago, building work started and it became real – there really were going to be new homes in Brede.

“My Mum and dad and my nan and grandad all live in Brede, so I had a local connection – which was really important to get one of the new homes. I put in a bid for one of the homes as soon as I could and it’s amazing that we’ve managed to get one. What’s also nice is that most of our neighbours are people who I’ve known for years. I went to primary school with some of them!

“New-build homes all look so cramped with little rooms, but we were really surprised about how much space we have here. The house is amazing – it’s lovely and big for the five of us and it has a great garden that the girls can play in safely. The house saves us money, because Hastoe builds homes that are energy efficient. In our old council house, the gas and electricity bill was about £80-£100 per month, but here it’s only £60 per month. It’s really warm and we have a solar panel on the roof that generates electricity, so I try to do things like the hoovering at midday, so it’s cheaper. We’ve also been given nice eco-extras, like a water butt in the garden and an apple tree, which is growing really well.

“As well as being a great home, being in the village is really good for us. Liam’s a teacher at a school a few miles away and I work at a surveying firm just five minutes from home, so I can get to and from work really quickly. With my mum and dad in the village too, I can drop the girls off with them and get to work. And when I’ve picked the girls up from mum’s or school and they’ve had their tea, I can work at home in the evening. It’s all very flexible and living really close by allows me to have a job and spend lots of time with my children.

“When I was growing up, I thought village life was a bit boring. But as you get older and have kids of your own, you realise that the things you didn’t like about village life – like it being quiet and peaceful – are just what you want for your children. You want your kids to be safe and secure and that’s what Brede means to me.

“It’s wonderful. This is the house we always wanted to bring up our children in.”

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