| Helen Sharp
The [young people] were adamant that if people wanted to live there they had to be in education, employment, training or volunteering. I thought it was a bit harsh but that’s what they wanted, so we ran with that. (Maria Jones, Young People and Families Manager)
Bron Afon Community Housing is a housing association operating in Torfaen, South Wales. Previously, young people’s tenancies were likely to break down because of problems including anti-social behaviour and rent arrears. So the Housing Association supported a group of young people to research what really mattered to them and what options would work best in Torfaen. Some of the things they learnt seem straightforward and unsurprising. For example, moving from care or 24 hour hostel support to their own tenancy was seen as too great a leap. They didn’t want to live in bedsits – they wanted their own front door.
Their research culminated in a project called ‘Own 2 Feet Living’ and the Bron Afon directors agreed to help them by offering the use of a derelict building for the accommodation. The young people were able to work with architects to design the layout – turning it into eight one-bedroom flats. They learnt new skills, depending on which part of the build they were interested in, the bricks and mortar or the internal decor. They were also instrumental in creating the policies and tenancy agreement which came with the accommodation, interestingly insisting that tenants had to be in education, employment, training or volunteering if they wanted to live there!
Now, the management committee is made up of young people; they run the project and deal with most of the issues. And despite the fact the facility still houses young people with complex and multiple needs, there have been no evictions in its first two years and no tenants are in arrears. And as a result of the co-production process, the young people involved in setting it up gained confidence and aspirations, with some going on to get jobs or go to university.