New community housing scheme aims to tackle loneliness and poor mental health in young people

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By Jack Charters, Deputy Features Editor

A new pilot housing scheme aimed at helping young people and students cope with the transition from supported housing to more independent living is set to receive its first intake of students in Bristol in September.

The project, Launchpad, is building a new development on the site of a car park that Bristol City Council has deemed to be surplus to requirements. The modular student apartments, which will be clad in yellow and green metal sheets to resemble shipping containers, will be onsite at the Alexandra Car Park in Fishponds for a maximum of 10 years before being relocated.

This comes as part of the pledge the City Council made in October 2018 at Bristol Housing Festival where it promised the number of potential sites that could be used for the construction of affordable housing would increase over the course of the next five years.

Residents will have a self-contained studio unit | Bristol SU

The scheme is a collaborative effort between the University of Bristol and the community with work shared between United Communities Housing Association, The University of Bristol Students’ Union, The University of Bristol, and 1625 Independent People.  It has been hailed as ‘innovative modular accommodation solution for young independent adults’.

With the recent increased recognition of loneliness and poor mental health during university and young adult life, the project is keen to stress that its primary focus is on community and wellbeing, and so will aim to unite groups of young people.

It is hoped that bringing together University of Bristol students with local young residents of the city will create a more closely interconnected community. LaunchPad also aims to counter the poor standards and quality of student rentals and supported housing, and challenge poor landlord and letting agent practices including hidden charges and profiteering.

Acting Chief Executive of Bristol Students’ Union Ben Pilling said:  'LaunchPad is a project that has been in the works for a while, and we’re excited that applications to live in the new development are now open. This is a unique accommodation opportunity for Bristol students which will bring together young people from diverse backgrounds.

The project is part of a pledge made by Bristol City Council | Bristol SU

'LaunchPad is a not-for-profit initiative, unlike most other accommodation available in the city, and people living in the development will be invited to participate in decisions that shape their living community.'

He added: 'We’re looking forward to welcoming the first cohort of tenants in September and hope this will pave the way for other unique accommodation opportunities that provide value for students.'

LaunchPad is a proposed remedy for the Bristol’s numerous housing issues, with its launch coming on the back of the Bristol Cut the Rent strike in March 2019.  Launchpad rents are also coming in at 30 per cent lower than similar student rentals – news particularly welcome to students after Epigram reported in 2018 that the price of University halls of residence were increasing by 4 per cent for the 2018/2019 academic year, in line with inflation.

Residents of the new development will have their own self-contained studio unit of approximately 22 sqm which contains a bedroom area, kitchenette and ensuite bathroom. Additionally there will be bike storage and a communal living area external to the apartments.

The development is not without its critics though.  A planning permission document submitted by United Communities to the Development Control Committee reveals that some existing local residents have expressed concerns about the ‘studentification’ of the area, and the widening of the divide between the University and the city itself.

Some residents are concerned about 'studentification' | Bristol SU

In a statement to Epigram, United Communities challenged this view saying:

'LaunchPad is designed to address ‘studentification’ directly, by mixing students (16) with young people who haven’t been to University (7) and local key-workers (8).  The aim is to help young people break out of expensive and sometimes poor quality rental accommodation.

'Residents will choose to live here because they want to live somewhere with genuine opportunities to meet like-minded people and integrate into the community around them. All the young people will have support from United Communities and 1625.'

Applications for accommodation are open to University of Bristol students, young people from the homeless charity 1625 Independent People, or young people aged 18-25 who are classed as a ‘Key Worker’. Rent for a studio unit is £523.84 per month inclusive of all bills for students and £602.64 per month for ‘Key Workers’ which includes both bills and council tax.

Eligibility for being considered a ‘Key Worker’ is dependent on position and pay in the following jobs:

-NHS workers excluding doctors and dentists.

-Primary school and sixth form teachers and nursery staff.

-Police and community support officers, and some civilian staff.

-Prison officers, prison staff and probation service staff.

-Social workers, educational psychologists, and therapists employed by local authorities.

-Local authority staff

Featured Image: Bristol SU


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