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Affordable housing scheme in Southmead sees first local NHS workers moving in

NHS workers are among the latest residents to celebrate moving into Elderberry Walk, the development scheme creating 161 new homes in Bristol suburb Southmead.

The scheme is a unique partnership between BBRC Homes, Cheyne Social Property Impact Fund, Brighter Places Housing Association and Bristol City Council, designed to deliver affordable and ethical accommodation for local people and key workers close to work.

Of the 161 homes being built, BBRC Homes – a division of Bristol & Bath Regional Capital CIC, the West of England’s first home-grown, place-based impact investor – has taken 61 properties on a long lease. These include 21 at a 10 per cent discounted rate for key workers, 27 for long-term market rent, and 13 Rent to Buy homes.

BBRC Homes’ first 11 Rent to Buy houses were completed last year, and 24 flats were completed in June/July this year, which are now all occupied – including six two-bed flats let directly to North Bristol NHS Trust for NHS key workers.

In the last few weeks, the scheme has seen the completion of the final 24 one and two bed flats, which are now available for key workers and open market rent.

For the keyworker flats, there are cascading criteria to ensure they are prioritised for the residents most in need. The criteria consider local connections and family in Bristol and then income threshold, to target low to middle-income earners.

The first six two-bed flats for open market rent saw 54 applications in the first 36 hours of them being advertised, resulting in applications having to be closed.

Wise Living, who have been appointed by BBRC to let and manage the 61 properties, have reported that interest remains strong, with 90 per cent of these apartments already occupied.

Ed Rowberry, chief executive, BBRC Homes, says: “Elderberry Walk is a ground-breaking housing scheme that BBRC Homes helped bring together to tackle the issue of local people – particularly key workers and those on low incomes – find affordable, quality homes in the city.

“The high level of interest and applications for the properties demonstrates the desperate need for housing in the city and shows that we need further investment to be able to deliver much more.

“The key to success for this scheme is that it delivers significant social impact whilst also ensuring a return for investors, giving them the confidence to invest further.

“We’re delighted to see the flats finished and residents moving in, and we look forward to providing good quality tenancies for our residents over the coming months and years.”

Elderberry Walk was awarded Best Large Scheme in Planning at the National Housing Awards and has been recognised by the World Economic Forum.

The development, which started in 2017 and is due to complete by the end of 2023, has used sustainable construction methods, ensuring an EPC B rating for all units.

The scheme encourages healthy living by incorporating cycle routes, green space and opportunities for food production within its design. It also offers six different types of homes in order to create a mixed community.

In the UK, house prices have been rising faster than salaries for decades. In the South West, this crisis is intensely felt, with median house prices in 2021 at 10 times median salaries – up from less than four times in 1997.

Outside of London, workers typically use 31 per cent of their gross earnings for rent. In the South West this is 36 per cent, and in Bristol it is 42 per cent.

Image: Barbara Evripidou, First Avenue Photography

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