Refurbish and occupy

A community-based social enterprise in Huddersfield is renovating dozens of empty private houses in a scheme that will provide affordable rented accommodation, training and work for local people, and a sustainable fund for more development. A loan from Co-operative & Community Finance is helping to make this happen.

Fresh Horizons is firmly rooted in Deighton and the ethnically diverse communities in the north of Huddersfield. The organisation delivers a very wide range of services and activities in pursuit of its mission to ‘help people be proud of what they do and where they live’. It guides local people to access support services and to get into training and volunteering. It also invests in housing and community buildings and helps to create local jobs.

Its many activities include managing fourteen community buildings, developing community managed libraries, managing over 60 domestic properties for rent, running the largest sheet music hire service in England, putting on community events, and supporting hundreds of local people back into employment. The organisation employs 70 people and has a turnover of £1.5m.

Co-operative & Community Finance is one of the institutions involved in funding the innovative empty homes project. The purpose is to make some of the estimated 5,000 empty private sector homes in Kirklees available as affordable properties for rent. Fresh Horizons refurbishes and sublets the properties that have been empty for more than six months. It charges the owner 10% of the rent in fees and a service charge and a contribution towards the cost of refurbishment. Fresh Horizons plans to establish a self-sustaining fund to continue the project.

Although Fresh Horizons was set up in 2002 it can trace its history back to the community action support group set up during the 1984/5 miners’ strike. This evolved and was formalised as the Deighton and Sheepridge Partnership in 1992. Ten years later it changed its constitution to become Fresh Horizons.

Managing Director Mike McCusker said: “Our big challenge has been to grow the organisation while remaining locally based. That’s why we have so many diverse activities. Delivering our mission drives us to deliver any service we can that will benefit the local community.”

This is the fourth loan that Co-operative & Community Finance has approved for Fresh Horizons. Investment Manager Ian Taylor explained why he was happy to support the organisation: “Fresh Horizons is run by local people for local people and they are solving local problems. There are a lot of empty houses in the area and the solution that Fresh Horizons has come up with is strategic, well planned and embedded in the local community.”

Fresh Horizons has also just launched an inspiring scheme to engage young people in volunteering. Called Wheels into Work the scheme gives the incentive of a free driving lesson for every five hours of voluntary work. Mike McCusker said: “This is a great way of engaging young people in volunteering and rewarding them with something they value. We’re expected 200 people to take part over the next six months.”