Housing provider defends conversions

A property converted into flats by Helena Homes
A property converted into flats by Helena Homes

A social housing provider has defended its policy of splitting homes into smaller flats following criticism from residents.

Helena Homes says dividing former family homes in the Newton-le-Willows and Haydock areas into two apartments has enabled tenants struggling with benefit reforms to stay in their home borough.

The provider said it had been faced with numerous examples of single people living in two or three-bedroom properties hit by the so-called bedroom tax and had found conversions were an effective solution to create affordable rented homes.

The response comes after residents on Holly Avenue launched an official complaint against St Helens Council’s planning department over granting an application for one such conversion.

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The angry residents said such properties were not suitable for flats and areas of brownfield land should be used to create apartments.

However, Helena Homes says it has rehoused 20 people into flats in Haydock and Newton-le-Willows and offered case studies of people who have benefitted from the arrangements.

A spokesman said: “Carol, a lady in her 50s, was living in a two bedroom flat in Newton. Following the introduction of the bedroom tax, Carol found managing her money increasingly difficult.

“Now, having secured a one-bedroomed apartment in Wargrave, Carol is in a much better position financially. She is also closer to her sister.

“A gentleman in his 80s had been living in a three bedroom house in the Newton area for many years. In August this year, he moved into a one bedroom ground-floor conversion in the same locality within the estate.

“This has had a profound effect on his health and wellbeing.

“The average age of tenants in these apartments is typically 40 years old. Each conversion has its own front door, avoiding the need for communal stairs, and landings while providing outdoor space for gardens.”

Helena Homes said it is planning to carry out a further 30 conversions where tenants are struggling to afford larger homes and where there is a shortage of suitable flats.