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Liverpool charity wants to turn empty church into affordable homes

The community group wants to save the unused building and create 16 flats and houses

The Liverpool-based charity Housing People, Building Communities has outlined its ambitious plan to save a derelict Catholic church by transforming it into much-needed accommodation.

When the disused St Bernard’s Catholic Church in Toxteth fell into disrepair, it was gifted by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool to the charity.

Community organisers have now submitted an application to Liverpool City Council to restore the building and create 11 affordable three-storey townhouses.

The plans also propose four new two-bedroom apartments and a detached house within the church grounds.

If successful, the charity hopes to begin work in early 2018, with homeowners expected to move in in early 2019.

The church in its current, derelict state.

Bringing empty homes and buildings back into use has been a key focus for The Big Issue since we launched our Fill ‘Em Up campaign at the end of 2015.

Housing People, Building Communities has already enjoyed success creating 32 homes in Liverpool’s Toxteth area.

The charity was set up to put the community at the heart of new development. One of its innovative approaches sees prospective buyers working on the houses for a substantial discount on their deposit.

It’s incredibly hard for people to get on to the property ladder at any age

“Our charity has always prioritised making homes truly affordable for families on lower incomes,” said Liza Parry, HPBC’s chief executive (pictured above). “We use a “sweat equity” model, so prospective homeowners get involved in building the houses.

“Five hundred hours of sweat equity equates to £10,000 towards the deposit of the homes, which are also bought on a shared ownership basis meaning that it’s even more affordable for them.”

Parry added: “Rental prices are astronomical at the moment, and it’s incredibly hard for people to get on to the property ladder at any age. It’s important to be able to offer people the opportunity to do so, and this programme gives them a leg up and helps to get them started.”

The charity received help from local businesses and college and university students to build its community-led homes in Kingsley Road and Alt Street (pictured above). Members of the armed forces even lent a hand, building a new as part of their Military Aid to the Civil Community initiative.

Home partner Christine Hendrick, 52, moved into an HPBC home on Alt Street with her two children last year, taking advantage of both the sweat equity and shared ownership schemes.

“I wasn’t in a position to buy anything outright and I had to decide whether to start renting, which would have been incredibly expensive, or to buy a poor-quality house elsewhere in the city which wouldn’t have been suitable with two children to raise,” she said.

“I was absolutely delighted when my application was accepted as it’s given me the opportunity to raise my children in a stable environment. It gives you the peace of mind that your landlord won’t increase your rental prices or sell the property with short notice.”

Hendrick added: “I’m also delighted that the charity is now renovating St Bernard’s Catholic Church – it really has a place in my heart after I attended services there for years and got married there. It means a lot to me that the charity is now hoping to give it a second life.”

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