Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Housing deal for YMCA approved

CAMPAIGNERS wanting to buy housing for young people in Henley have overcome the final obstacle.

Henley YMCA has been approved as a registered housing provider in its own right, a legal requirement, by the Homes and Communities Agency, a government body that regulates social housing providers in England.

It now means the charity can go ahead and purchase the lease on the flats at its Lawson Road complex, which house 31 people aged 18 to 25 with links to the town and nowhere else to go.

A £300,000 appeal to go towards buying the lease reached its target in January, just 14 months after being launched when YMCA England announced that it was exiting housing and selling the property it owned.

The charity needed £570,000 in total but secured a £100,000 grant from Henley Town Council and a £170,000 loan from South Oxfordshire District Council.

The Henley branch owns the land in Lawson Road but not the 21 studio flats and 10 one-bedroom flats, which were valued at £566,500.

To be a registered provider, it had to provide a 30-year maintenance plan for the buildings, a five-year business plan and “stress testing” to demonstrate how it would cope if there were empty rooms or if rental income decreased.

There has not been an empty property at Lawson Road for more than eight years.

The next step is to raise up to £150,000 to refurbish the flats. The kitchens and bathrooms were put in when the accommodation was built in 2000 and are showing their age.

The Henley YMCA branch was founded in 1857 and has been based at its current home for 17 years.

As well as housing, it provides residents with education support, such as money management courses, help with CVs and job hunting.

In December 2013, YMCA England announced that all its supported housing schemes should be locally owned as well as managed, so that it could concentrate on the work of the charity at a national level.

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