A volunteer-run charity which has had dozens of affordable homes built in Keswick for local people celebrates its 10th anniversary.
Keswick Community Housing Trust did not have a penny to its name when it was formed on 17 December 2010 but now it has net assets of nearly £6 million in the shape of 40 houses and flats at four different locations in the town.
Residents are due to move into the trust’s latest development of four houses behind Keswick Methodist Church in Southey Street early next month, while its other shared-ownership and rental properties at The Hopes, Banks Court and Calvert Way remain fully occupied.
It is a remarkable success story spanning a decade and demand remains high for its homes, with the trust being oversubscribed by more than four to one for all its properties largely because of the shortage of good quality, fairly-priced accommodation in the town.
Chairman Bill Bewley admits the trust is fighting an uphill battle as the number of second homes and holiday lets in Keswick and the North Lakes continues to rise, pushing up property prices already inflated by tourism demand.
“At best we have slowed the loss of residential homes to second homes and holiday lets,” said Mr Bewley, who has been its chairman throughout.
“We acknowledge the value of the holiday homes business to the local economy but it should not be at the loss of the right of local people to work and live in the community,” he added.
The trust has recently set up a lobbying sub-group to liaise with Keswick Town Council in a bid to hold the Lake District National Park Authority and Allerdale Borough Council to task about local occupancy conditions. The sub-group also hopes to work with the Community Land Trust Network and other national organisations towards a change in planning rules.
Meanwhile, the trust is still looking for suitable land or properties to develop for its next project.
Mr Bewley said: “There clearly remains a real need for our beautiful, affordable homes so we must keep endeavouring to satisfy the need for local people who work in the area to have affordable homes in Keswick.”
He plans to step down after the trust’s next scheme and hand over to Andrew Stephenson, who was elected as vice-chairman at last week’s virtual annual meeting.
Treasurer Peter Roberts reported a surplus of £184, 000 last year compared to £104,000 in 2018.
The main source of income was £120,000 from rents plus grants of £67,000 from Allerdale and Keswick councils, plus charitable donations of £60,000 from Crosthwaite Church and a bequest.
“Overall, the report highlights the fact that currently our regular rental income is sufficient to cover our operating and administrative costs on an on-going basis,” added Dr Roberts.