A housing association is spearheading a pioneering £600,000 scheme to transform an Edwardian mansion into affordable homes for key workers in Colwyn Bay.
In a departure from its usual role of providing low-cost social housing Cartrefi Conwy bought the imposing eight-bedroom property on Conway Road from Conwy County Borough Council specifically for this project.
The Council had been using it as its social services offices in recent years but over the past five months it’s been converted into six two-bedroom apartments.
When the scheme is finished early next year the state-of-the-art apartments will be let at 20 per cent less than the current market rent to help to keep vital people like police, health and emergency services staff living close to the heart of the town.
According to Cartrefi Conwy’s Development and New Business Manager, David Kelsall, the idea behind the scheme is to give working people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford the deposit on buying a home the chance to take the first step on the property ladder.
He said: “There is a substantial group of people, including many vital staff in the caring and emergency services professions, whose low incomes mean they can’t afford to put down deposits on their own homes.
“We are basically talking about people earning between £15,000 and £29,000, many of whom are doing jobs which are central to the community of Colwyn Bay.
“We have been working closely on this scheme with Conwy County Borough Council, the Welsh Government and the Bay Life+ regeneration programme.
“Giving priority to Colwyn Bay people, the aim is to offer them an initial six-month lease on one of the new apartments at a rent which is about 80 per cent of the current market rate for properties like this.
“That means they’ll only be paying about £460 per calendar month.
“This, we hope, will mean they are not spending all their money on a mortgage and will therefore have the opportunity to eventually progress up the property ladder.
“The short lease, which they will have the chance to renew if they wish, gives them easy mobility should their job take them out of the area.
“The scheme has also had the benefit in bringing back into use a property in an area close to the town centre and its facilities.”
“This has been a very exciting project for Cartrefi Conwy and we appreciate having had the chance to work with other agencies on it.”
The Conwy Road property has been gutted and extensively facelifted, giving all six of the spacious new apartments on three floors two bedrooms plus either a separate lounge or a lounge/kitchen area.
Equipped with the latest in heating and insulation along with new hardwood windows to keep down running costs, each apartment also has a fitted kitchen and bathroom complete with bath and shower.
There is a communal drying area for laundry plus parking for nine cars at the front and a cycle storage rack at the rear.
David Lowe, Affordable Housing Officer for Conwy County Borough Council, said: “The scheme was made possible by the Council using some of the £12m we received last year under the Welsh Government’s Vibrant and Viable Places Framework for local regeneration projects.
“We put in around £140,000 and transferred the building to Cartrefi Conwy for just £1 to provide an additional subsidy, leaving them to put in the rest of the total cost of around £600,000.
“The scheme is part of our strategy for the building-led regeneration of the county and is aimed at young people who can’t meet their housing need on the open market.
“Cartrefi Conwy and its contractors, G Purchase Construction, are producing good quality, affordable homes for people who are central to the local economy.
“The Council is very pleased to have been involved in the scheme and I can’t wait to see the first tenants moving in, which should be sometime around next January.”
Councillor Mary Doyle, who represents the Rhiw ward in which the scheme is located and is also a member of the Council’s planning committee, was equally enthusiastic about the new Conway Road apartments.
She said: “I think it’s a brilliant scheme and an asset to the area.
“In the first place what they are doing to a lovely old building is commendable but the idea of getting young people out of the trap they face of being unable to afford the deposit on a home although they are working is fantastic.
“The apartments are being built to the very highest standards and the development is perfectly located close to the town centre and the shops.”
Her fellow planning committee member and Rhiw ward member Cllr Trevor Stott said: “While there has been a lot of concentration on social housing we have to remember that there are also quite a number of people in this area who can’t afford to get into the property market because they are not earning enough.
“This scheme by Cartrefi Conwy bridges that gap and is an exciting partnership between a number of agencies.
“It’s also making good use of an older building, which is great to see.”
Gwynne Jones, Director of Operations for Cartrefi Conwy, said: “I am very pleased that Cartrefi Conwy has been able to work so closely with the Council, the Welsh Government and Bay Life+ on this project as part of the Vibrant and Viable Framework, which is working for the regeneration of Colwyn Bay.
“We are helping to improve the local economy through our investment in this scheme but also bringing back people to live in the town centre.”
For more information please contact Conwy Housing Solutions on 0300 124 0050