Emh group – building Saffron Lane Community Housing

HACT Case Study: Housing Associations Supporting Community-Led Housing Developments

With over 18,000 homes across the East Midlands, emh group is one of the leading providers of affordable homes and specialist care and support services in the East Midlands. It comprises social landlord emh homes; Enable, a care provider, and Midlands Rural Housing. Over the years the Group has continued to increase its development programme to meet much needed affordable housing in rural and urban communities. It has also moved more towards a ‘Fabric First’ approach and has already developed its first PassivHaus homes in Long Eaton.

The Group with its 68 year tradition of working with local communities seemed a natural partner for Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council (SLNC) – a long established community charity in south Leicester – when a significant development opportunity arose in 2012.

SLNC already successfully manages a 12 acre community food growing project (Saffron Acres) on land adjacent to a 13 acre former allotment site – the proposed development site owned by Leicester City Council.

Three years ago SLNC approached Leicester City Council, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and subsequently emh group, with a view to exploring the option of the Council transferring the 13 acre site for the development of 50 affordable eco homes.

Leicester City Council has agreed the transfer of the land to the Saffron Resource Centre for £1 on the basis of the development proposals and funding opportunities made available by emh group.

Emh group

Green homes for Saffron Lane. Work is starting on Heathcott Road, off Saffron Lane, Leicester. From left: Chan Kataria (emh group Chief Executive), Chris Beighton (Managing Director of Westleigh), Peter Soulsby (Leicester City Mayor) and Neil Hodgkin (Project manager at Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council)

In partnership with emh group, SLNC has secured £1.55 million of funding through the HCA’s Affordable Homes Guarantee programme – to build 50 homes for phase 1.

Emh group will be contributing £252,000 of recycled capital grant and will borrow the remaining amount to meet the overall estimated scheme cost of £6.5 million.

There is strong local support for the scheme. The local community has had significant input through SLNC who has worked closely with emh group to achieve the range of high quality PassivHaus homes that will make a big difference in the heart of the Saffron Lane community.

Site Layout

The project reaches completion

When Leicester City Council transferred 12 acres to Saffron Lane, they were keen to see an exemplar housing development in return. In reality, ‘exemplar’ barely describes what has actually been achieved. Saffron Heath is a spacious, beautiful development of bright, highly insulated homes that through their design and build, have slashed heating bills for the new residents. The homes themselves are a mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroomed properties – seven with wheelchair access.

Houses cluster around two greens and surrounding avenues, and have large gardens and parking spaces. They back onto an open space – Saffron Acres, where fruit trees grow produce for a jam making operation and local people learn horticultural skills. Alongside this area is another site earmarked for a further 20 new homes.

The houses were built to the renowned passiv-haus standard by Westleigh Partnerships Ltd and the whole development is managed by East Midlands Homes, a housing association that secured the £9million funding needed to take the project forward.

Saffron Director Neil Hodgkin said, “Community-led housing really is an achievable option for community groups wanting to help local people. I would never say it’s easy, but it’s definitely worth it when you see new residents moving in.

“For us, it was about doing something more than just talking about the need for housing. We wanted to make sure that we could build the kind of houses people want and really deserve. These homes are affordable rented properties and they offer a real opportunity for those people who could not otherwise have found a home. This site is open, bright and full of promise. We’re delighted to have been able to make it happen.”

See for yourself: Saffron Lane Neighbourhood Council is building the biggest affordable passive haus community housing project in Europe. Action Homeless Leicester refurbishes empty homes to provide supported accommodation and resettlement services.