Pioneering independent living rooftop housing scheme proposed by Bristol homeless charity

January 15, 2021

Homeless charity Emmaus Bristol is aiming to create 15 low-carbon, affordable eco homes on the roof of its office on the edge of the city centre.

The scheme on the roof of Backfields House in St Pauls – Emmaus Bristol’s office and retail space – includes 11 one-bedroom, two-storey homes, three two-bedroom single storey homes, 1 one-bedroom single story home, and food-growing and shared amenity space. 

The proposal, which is expected to go before city council planners next month, has already gained support from the community during consultation.

Emmaus Bristol supports people who have been homeless or socially excluded. The charity provides up to 30 people at a time with a home for as long as they need it within a communal setting, as well as providing self-contained family homes and shared move-on accommodation.

The motivation behind the initiative is to provide affordable homes for people who are ready to move out of the charity’s supported housing.

Chief executive Jessica Hodge said: “We offer more than just a bed for the night. When someone joins our Emmaus Bristol community, they work full-time in our shops to gain new skills and build up their CV, and receive daily support, mentoring and training so they can rebuild their life. 

“There is no time limit on the support we provide, and people can stay with us for as long as they need, whether that is a few months or years.

“Some of the people we support eventually and understandably want their own home and their own independence, but then struggle to find affordable rented homes to move into or meet significant barriers to private rented accommodation such as cost, competition, credit ratings and references.

“The aim of our rooftop development will give people the option to live independently when they are ready to, but still keep them connected to Emmaus Bristol and the support we can provide if they need it.”

The charity believes that community-led housing in Bristol is vital in helping people recover from homelessness, as well as combat loneliness and isolation.

Jessica added: “A healthy and sustainable community is knowing your neighbours and being connected to those around you.

“It is important that the move-on accommodation we provide has a sense of community even with independent living space. 

“We have seen people leave Emmaus Bristol for more affordable areas only to really struggle in a new area, with no job and no community around them.”

At least 50% of the homes will be for rent at Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, with the rest available at market rents. The homes will be available to people moving on from Emmaus as well as others, some through referrals and some through the open market. Each home will have its own private space but will be connected to a shared landscaped courtyard and rooftop garden allotment for both communal and private use by residents.

The layout and design, developed by London-based Agile Homes, aims to make the most out of Emmaus Bristol’s current land resource and will have a light carbon footprint, making them cheap to run with energy use up to 90% lower than a conventionally built home.

Agile Homes CEO Craig White said: “Working with Emmaus Bristol, we are pleased to have come up with a unique way to deliver low-carbon, affordable homes. Unlocking a land supply hidden in plain sight, in the heart of the city, on the rooftop of Backfields House, means we will be helping a new community come together in a place that will be beautiful, affordable and resilient.”

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