A project to bring affordable housing to St Leonards has been hailed as a success by the leader of Hastings Borough Council this week.
Known as the Coastal Space Project, the scheme has seen the council team up with housing association Optivo to renovate disused buildings and bring them into use as low-rent homes.
Most recently, the project has seen the conversion of Winchester House – a derelict early Victorian building once used as a school – into 26 affordable homes.
Speaking at an event on Tuesday (July 16) to celebrate the completion of work at the building Cllr Chowney said: “Coastal Spaces has been a really good partnership project.
“The idea was twofold; one, to provide social-rented housing in what was at that time a deprived part of town and at the same time to use the refurbishment of some key eyesore sites around the town and improve the look of the town.
“St Leonards is certainly turning the corner in regeneration terms, but of course one of the problems with that is people do get displaced. People in poor quality private-rented housing get moved on.
“[This scheme] has provided 100 more social rented properties that can to some extent take on that problem of gentrification, where people can lose their home.”
The first tenants moved into Winchester House in March and the building is now almost fully let. As affordable properties, the flats are all rented out below the market rate.
All the tenants chosen to live in the home also have both a local connection and are involved in helping the community in some way (e.g. volunteering), council officers say.
The project also received funding from Homes England and South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).
Lenka Muir, development manager at Optivo, said: “It’s great to see the positive impact Coastal Space continues to have on the central St Leonards area.
“We’ve enjoyed working in partnership with Hastings Borough Council to transform Winchester House and it’s clear to see the massive difference this project continues to make to people’s lives.
“We’re already fully focussed on the next phase of the project and look forward to providing more affordable homes to local people in the future.”
According to Optivo, the Coastal Space project has transformed 38 properties across seven sites in St Leonards since 2013.
Properties already completed include a former nursing home on the junction of Carisbrooke Road and Stockleigh Road, as well as several smaller properties around Central St Leonards.
Work is also underway at Leolyn House, a disused care home in Pevensey Road. It is set to be converted into 16 apartments once completed.