Homelessness charity gets £600,000 energy efficiency funding

A major project to make homes for vulnerable young people warmer, healthier, and cheaper to run is being backed with over £600,000 of funding from West Midlands Combined Authority.

Homelessness charity St Basils has seen its energy bills rise significantly over the past two years, pushing up the cost of providing somewhere to live for 16 to 25-year-olds who are homeless or at risk of homelessness while they move into work and a more independent life.

Thanks to WMCA funding, 84 of St Basils young people in Sandwell will benefit from this energy efficiency makeover with better insulation, solar panels, innovative smart energy saving storage heaters, and new double-glazed windows and doors.

The money comes from a multi-million-pound pot of cash secured by the WMCA from government with match funding from housing providers to retrofit thousands of the region’s oldest and coldest homes with better insulation and greener heating systems.

As well as helping to keep rents low for St Basils residents, the improvements will also help tackle climate change by reducing energy usage and emissions, supporting the region’s #WM2041 ambition to be net zero within the next 20 years.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, visited the newly refurbished homes last Thursday,  ahead of the first residents moving in.

 The Mayor said: “St Basils do a fantastic job of providing a safety net for some of the most vulnerable people in our region but increased energy costs have put real pressure on the charity’s finances in recent times.

“We are using money from Government to begin a massive retrofit programme that will see homes across the region made warmer, healthier and cheaper to run. I’m really pleased we have been able to use more than £650,000 of that money to help St Basils upgrade its existing properties and provide new fit-for-purpose homes for young people, many of whom have experienced homelessness.

“This will help to keep the charity’s costs down in the long term so they can continue to provide an affordable housing option to those most in need as they get back on their feet.”

Jean Templeton, chief executive of St Basils, said, “Our new youth village in Sandwell is the very definition of what happens when partners come together for a common purpose. The NHS Trust, Homes England, Sandwell council and other partners have allowed us to create something that will have a significant impact on young people’s ability to access affordable accommodation.

“The funding from WMCA means that energy costs for residents will be substantially reduced, giving them more disposable income at a time when budgets are already tight. We thank WMCA for their contribution to this project.”

The WMCA is becoming a national leader in decarbonising homes, communities and businesses. As part of a £50m region-wide retrofit programme, more than 500 social homes right across the region have been upgraded with the latest energy-saving measures. Work has now begun on a further 2,000 rented homes.

A £16 million fund is currently open for applications to help people who own their own homes and private landlords pay for things like super-efficient insulation, solar panels, underfloor heating and heat pumps. Grants of up to around £18,000 are available to people who live in homes off the gas grid, with an EPC rating of D to G, and earn less than £36,000.

Six more pioneering Net Zero Neighbourhoods have also been announced by the Mayor as part of the WMCA’s pioneering scheme to retrofit entire neighbourhoods alongside other community-wide improvements to the environment and transport infrastructure.

Work has begun on the UK’s and Europe’s first Net Zero Neighbourhood in Brockmoor in Dudley thanks to £1.65 million of funding from the WMCA. Cllr John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, and leader of Birmingham City Council, said:

“Making homes more energy efficient is not just about reducing carbon emissions but helping people face the challenges of high fuel bills, which is why we are so determined to ramp up our retrofit activity.

“This funding, along with the additional investment from housing providers, will help deliver that commitment to provide residents with homes that are both warmer and more energy efficient.”


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