Families praise initiative bringing affordable new homes to the heart of their community Monday 23 May 2016

An initiative launched by a partnership of housing associations, local councils and a national park authority is helping to deliver affordable housing and tackle poverty in rural areas.

Families praise initiative bringing affordable new homes to the heart of their community

Rural Housing Enablers (RHEs) are succeeding in helping families into good quality, affordable housing, often enabling them to stay in the areas in which they grew up.

Housing association Grŵp Cynefin joined forces with local authorities Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey, housing associations Cartrefi Conwy and North Wales Housing, as well as Snowdonia National Park Authority to fund the service to ensure more communities can benefit.

One family who now live in a comfortable new home thanks to the initiative are Catherine Jones, partner Tony Poulton and their three children. Catherine has spoken of her joy at settling into her dream Gwynedd home at the heart of the community where she grew up.

The couple moved into their three-bedroom home in Pant yr Eithin, Harlech last summer, ten days before the arrival of their third child.

Prior to moving in, the family had been living in a damp, two-bedroom flat where their toddler daughter Yvonne, 2, had been suffering from asthma-like symptoms.

Catherine Jones, 27, a shop assistant in Harlech, said: “Our home is absolutely brilliant and we couldn’t ask for better. I know lots of my neighbours as we all grew up in the area together, and they all have young families so we can help each other.

“Our daughters love it as well because there’s so much space and they have a garden, which we didn’t have before. There is also a safe place for the children to all play together.

“We also have much cheaper bills. In our flat we were paying £50 a week in electricity. Not long after we moved in here we got a bill for £40 for six weeks and thought there must have been a mistake!

“Yvonne doesn’t have asthma now and I don’t think she ever did, I believe it was due to living in a damp property.”

The family received the keys to their new home last July, on Catherine’s due date. She went into labour and gave birth to Nathaniel ten days later, assisted by her neighbour who phoned for an ambulance. Catherine and her partner Tony also have Yvonne, two and Sophia, four.

Catherine is also grateful to be living close to her ageing grandparents Catherine and Ralph Jones, who brought her up from the age of eight. “My grandma has Parkinson’s disease and my granddad has dementia so I’m able to help carers look after them,” she said.

Another family to benefit from the Rural Housing Enabler initiative, thanks to part-funding by the Welsh Government is Darren and Donna Williams and their toddler son Siôn. The couple, who are expecting their second child in July, previously lived in a private rental property before moving to Pant yr Eithin but were concerned that the property might be sold.

They now have a secure tenancy, cheaper rent and a safe garden for their son to play in. Darren, who works at the nearby Spar supermarket, said: “It is a great house in a lovely, peaceful spot. We also feel we have more ownership over it and can put our own stamp on it.”

The Rural Housing Enabler worked with the local community council to identify a need for family homes through a survey sent to each household in the area. The Enabler then worked with Grŵp Cynefin, Gwynedd Council and Harlech Town Council to develop the site.

Arfon Hughes, Senior Rural Housing Enabler, said: “We are really proud that by working together with partners, we’ve been able to secure a funding package that enables the Rural Housing Enablers’ service to be available for communities across North West Wales.

“It’s our priority to ensure people in rural areas can access housing that allows them to remain in and contribute to communities like Harlech. This is important in ensuring the long-term future and sustainability of communities in rural areas across North Wales.”

Councillor Caerwyn Roberts, who represents the residents of Harlech on Gwynedd Council said: “It was great to see how the Rural Housing Enabler assists community councils to recognise the need for new homes, and how that ensures the community gets the homes that are needed here.

“It’s encouraging to hear how well the families have settled into their new homes, and how much they appreciate being part of the community that they know and recognise so well.”

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