New entry, relationships, partnerships, lease and repair, learning, experimental, appetite
“… we had recruited volunteers from the community and for quite a lot of them English
wasn’t their first language, so we also put in someone who’s English was relatively good who could communicate…when you mix with other people you learn a lot…. in a very strange way,
it was used to address mental health because for quite a number who are refugees they really are not doing anything… it gave them a flavour of what they could go on and do at the college. We’ve used this pilot to look at what
you would like to do.”
“…with the type of support from CC87 and Thirteen and the fact we’ve done this kind of pilot we stand a better chance of borrowing [from banks and funders]. ”
Based in Stockton, Cultures CIC is a community interest company that formed in 2007. Housing was not part of their original ambition. However, they saw the opportunity to address the difficulties and housing needs experienced
by many of the client group they worked with.
Through education and training, their primary aim is introducing migrant and refugee communities to British work ethics and supporting people into skilled work and professional occupations to help them avoid becoming trapped in the unskilled, low-wage sector. Also, to help overcome common difficulties of understanding local culture and individual rights and responsibilities.
Cultures CIC recognises the difficulties faced by migrants and refugees and has developed services promote social, economic and cultural inclusion and build social cohesion; work to improve client access to services, break down barriers and raise awareness of equality and cultural diversity in the wider community.
They identified a need for safer, more secure and affordable housing in stable communities as many of the people they worked with faced housing difficulties. Their clients often had little option but to live in the worst, most insecure, private rented accommodation. This was
significant for refugees after notification of their status of ‘Leave to remain’ which result in them having to leave accommodation, provided by the National Asylum Support Service, at short notice.
Cultures CIC introduction to Community-led Housing came through involvement with the CHIEF
which provided a fund for a number of Tees Valley groups to explore the potential for Community-led Housing with the aim of promoting the establishment
of new groups and schemes.
Their first housing scheme involved a partnership with registered provider, Thirteen Group, who leased four empty flats on a five-year lease. The flats had originally been leased by Thirteen from the private sector and where considered redundant stock as they were coming to the end of the lease life.
Refurbishment was supervised by Community Campus and aimed to provide training and volunteer opportunities for clients and people from the wider community in construction and decorating skills. Six volunteer trainees participated and it was also intended that participants would be offered the opportunity to become a tenant, which one did.
A new income stream
An unexpected project outcome was the benefit the approach offered to improving English
language skills and social and community integration. It revealed that bringing together various cultures and languages was a variable to help achieve this.
The finished properties are now managed by Thirteen with Cultures CIC receiving an annual
management fee for supporting the tenants. This lease and repair approach offered Cultures CIC a taster and low risk entry into housing. They are now on their second project, refurbishing three empty homes leased from Thirteen. They are building on their experience and learning from the first project.
They will take on a greater role in the housing management when the properties are tenanted with the rent providing a new income stream.
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