This week marked the official opening of a new development for young people in central Wokingham. The purpose-built scheme located on the corner of Reading Road and Station Approach was formally opened by Peter Jones, Head of Affordable Housing and Supply for the South West from Homes England.
Peter was joined by the leader of Wokingham Borough Council Charlotte Haitham-Taylor, Gary Cowan, Chairman of Council owned, registered provider Loddon Homes, as well as representatives from the partnership organisations who have worked together to deliver this scheme from concept through to completion.
The development of seven bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and two bedsit apartments has been built in response to increasing demands for living options for young care leavers in the Borough. The nature of the scheme meant it was eligible for a Homes England, Platform for Life grant of £304,000. The grant combined with commuted sums developer contributions, in lieu of affordable housing, meant that the Council were able to instruct its own development company Wokingham Housing (WHL) to build the scheme on its behalf. Upon completion the new property transferred to Loddon Homes as caretaker and landlord.
During the ribbon cutting opening ceremony Peter Jones commented “Schemes such as Reading Road are exactly what the Platform for Life grant programme has been set up for. Homes England is passionate about providing housing for young people aged 16-25 that are either homeless or at risk of homelessness. Low rent accommodation such as this gives young people the housing and support they need to achieve their life aspirations be that through work, education or a vocation.”
Also present at the opening was 19 year old Simone Jones. Since Simone moved in she has worked hard to make this multi-roomed house a home; including initiating work in the garden to establish a vegetable patch, Simone and her fellow resident Caitlin have also taken the opportunity to display their personal art work in the communal areas. Simone had moved from another young person’s scheme in Wokingham and she said “Reading Road already feels like a home, the move here has had a very positive impact on my outlook. The house is very bright and spacious and this can only increase your positivity. The on-site care team, P3, also really help with this, they provide strong support that focuses on our well-being.”
Reading Road has been created with the vision of providing a stepping stone to independence; the onsite care team will aid these young people to navigate their way through these formative years to better understand and manage the financial and social pressures of renting or buying their own home. The existing residents are encouraged to establish themselves in their private rooms whilst focusing on their education, employment or vocation. When they are ready to take on the next level of responsibility they can transition to a bed-sit apartment before eventually moving on to manage their own independent tenancies.
Alison Marjoram, Regional Director for P3 commented that “When someone leaves care at age of 16 they don’t suddenly stop needing support. Through homes like Reading Road P3 are able to work with young people, building their confidence, resilience and life skills; we work to enable them to fulfil their potential and lead happy lives. By seeing each person as an individual and offering bespoke support we believe everyone can become a full and valued member of society. Unfortunately, too many young people miss out on the opportunities that have been made available by this marvellous new scheme”.
Reading Road further highlights the Council’s ambitions for its housing companies. Through building and providing social and affordable homes across a mix of tenures the Local Housing Companies are able to meet the varying needs of the Boroughs residents from young people through to individuals on a limited income right up to older people needing extra care.