Church land used for new homes

People looking for somewhere affordable to live are being helped thanks to the development of homes at a former church.

Fourteen new apartments for people over 55 now stand on the site of St Matthew’s Church in Maindee, Newport, which closed five years ago. Called Hen Eglwys, the development was a partnership project between the Church in Wales, Housing Justice Cymru and housing provider, Pobl Group, under the Faith in Affordable Housing scheme.

Visiting the site, the Archbishop of Wales, John Davies, who once served as vicar of Maindee, and is now chair of Housing Justice Cymru, praised the courage and vision of those who oversaw the project.

He said, “There can come a time, a sad time, when a place of worship that has been much loved over the years, comes to the end of its viable life. It becomes a liability rather than being an asset. The least attractive option for that building is that it closes and becomes a ruin – a poor advertisement for any community. There are occasions when such a building can be re-ordered and adapted for community or residential use. There are others when the clearance of the site and the construction of new facilities is the more feasible option. For St Matthew’s, that was the way forward, and I’m delighted to be able to commend those who took difficult decisions for their courage and vision to engage in such a fruitful project.”

Faith in Affordable Housing is managed by Housing Justice Cymru and was set up to encourage churches of all denominations to release land and buildings for affordable housing, so that the Church can give something back to the community rather than selling land and property on the open market.

Sharon Lee, Director of Housing Justice Cymru said, This fantastic development will provide affordable rented homes for generations to come, and is a fitting legacy for the former church. It shows what can be achieved through partnership that focuses on the needs of the community.”

The new homes consist of rented one and bedroom apartments specifically for people aged over 55. Each new home has level access shower rooms and either a patio area or balcony to provide residents with their own external recreational space. The new building also benefits from solar panels fitted to the roof which are linked to the communal landlord’s electrical supply. This allows communal utility costs to be reduced, resulting in lower service charges for residents.

Sarah Hodges, project manager at Pobl Group said, “As a fitting tribute to the land’s history, we’ve been able to make use of some stone from the original church building and use it to construct the walls of the store that face Hereford Street. We were also able to retain and reuse one of the original flower pots that was sited at the front of the Church.

“The Hen Eglwys development is a great example of how collaborative working with other like-minded organisations helps us to deliver more affordable housing and supports the regeneration of local communities.”

The new homes in Newport build upon other successful schemes enabled by FiAH in recent years at Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend with a number of future schemes emerging across Wales, including at Birchgrove in Swansea and Pontllanfraith, Caerphilly.

The Pobl Group results from the merger of Gwalia and Seren, two leading social care and housing provides in Wales, in 2016.