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Sustainable Construction Project Helps Vulnerable People Re-build Their Lives

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A south Wales housing association has launched an innovative construction project designed to provide training opportunities to vulnerable people while addressing the region’s need for sustainable and affordable housing.

For its latest venture, Coastal Housing Group has teamed up with ‘Down to Earth’– a Gower-based social enterprise which provides education and personal development opportunities to vulnerable and ‘hard to reach’ groups through sustainable construction projects.

The collaboration will see 360 young people and adults, from a range of vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds, take part in eight-week housebuilding training programmes at the site of Coastal’s latest residential development in Pennard, South Gower.

Under the guidance of experts, the participants, which includes young people not in education or training (NEETs) and individuals suffering with mental health issues or traumatic brain injuries, will build six of the 70 properties on the new housing development using a sustainable approach.

The initiative aims to clinically improve the health outcomes and employment prospects of the individuals involved, while at the same time delivering a sustainable building project.

As well as equipping the participants with practical experience and knowledge of construction work, the scheme will also see the participants receive a qualification related to construction or health and safety following completion of the programme.

Mark McKenna, co-founder and director at Down to Earth project said:

“This is a unique project that explores how to tackle social inequality and wellbeing, while at the same time embracing sustainability. We believe that, with the right support, even the most so-called ‘hard to reach’ people can not only thrive but also benefit the wider community.

“We use the process of building houses as a way to help participants work through their personal challenges and ultimately deliver outcomes which improve their health and education. In fact, our research has shown that engaging people in this way can be as effective as antidepressants in reducing depression.

“These hands-on, sustainable activities are a win-win solution both for the people we work with and the wider community and environment. Through the programme, participants will improve their own lives as well as the fabric of society.”

During the course, the participants will be split into groups of ten with each group working one day a week and will be involved in every part of the building process from creating the initial timber frames and manufacturing individual wall sections, to assembling the homes on site and cladding their exteriors.

Each of the properties will be built with a focus on sustainability, using locally sourced, natural materials to ensure the value of the project is retained in the Welsh economy.

Gareth Davies, director of development at Coastal Housing Group said:

“Sustainability is at the heart of the work we do at Coastal and we are committed to continually exploring new ways of developing affordable and sustainable housing options for generations to come.

“We are passionate about supporting initiatives that help local people and improve their health and well-being. Working with Down to Earth on our latest scheme is an innovative way of supporting rehabilitation through construction, while at the same time delivering much needed, affordable and sustainable housing in Pennard.

“The project will provide vulnerable individuals with valuable skills and knowledge, which could lead to them progressing onto further training or employment opportunities. At the same time, it will help us to achieve goals set out in the Wellbeing of Future Generations legislation Act.”

The new sustainable homes will be located at Coastal Housing Group’s new Pennard development, which has been developed to address a shortage of quality and affordable housing in the area. The £11m scheme will consist of 34 open market homes, as well as 36 affordable homes for both low-cost home ownership and social rent.

Work on the development is due to commence this July, subject to planning conditions, with the scheme expected to be completed in the summer of 2021.

For more information on Down to Earth, visit: https://www.downtoearthproject.org.uk/