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First residents move into converted warehouse in Exeter city centre

Published: 5 August 2022

First residents move into converted warehouse in Exeter city centre YMCA Exeter resident Gemma

YMCA Exeter’s brand new Sidwell Studios development has welcomed its first residents at the converted warehouse.

The development, opened by Exeter City Council Leader Phil Bialyk in May, is a joint venture to tackle Exeter’s one-bed housing shortage by converting the city centre building into 26 self-contained studio apartments.

Each studio will provide a young person with a longer term, affordable home and support where needed.

YMCA Exeter completed the development thanks to the significant investment from both Homes England and Exeter City Council, as well as donations from many charitable trusts and local supportive individuals and businesses.

YMCA Exeter resident, 26-year-old Gemma, said she was delighted to move in.

She said: “I jumped up and down in the kitchen when I heard I’d got a place. Everyone is so happy for me. I couldn’t have afforded a place in the centre of town with the current market rates, it would have been my whole month’s salary.   

“I’m now going to live closer to my mum and my employees have offered me the chance to become a shift leader in a local shop. This new place is a dream come true.” 

Si Johns, YMCA Exeter Joint CEO, said: “It’s wonderful to have local, young people moving into their new studio apartments this month. Our vision is to support young people to become embedded in their communities and this month we are celebrating that 26 young people will now have permanent, affordable homes in the heart of Exeter.   

“We couldn’t have completed this development without the support of local businesses, friends and volunteers. It’s been a team effort from start to finish and we’re excited for further opportunities to tackle the housing crisis in the future.”  

The unique housing initiative is based on a model that will help young people to feel embedded in their community, but also be financially safe for them.

The new development sits adjacent to St Sidwell’s Community Centre, providing the opportunity for residents to access vocational skills workshops, a community allotment and weekly community meals.

The monthly rent, which is over £300 less than the market rate, includes all utilities and wifi costs, plus residents do not need to provide an upfront deposit or rent in advance – both of which make independent living impossible for many young people. 

Cllr Bialyk said: “I was delighted to attend the formal opening and cut the ribbon at the new Sidwell Studios housing development led by the YMCA. This former warehouse has been converted into 26 new homes for young people who are ready to move out of supported accommodation.

“The self-contained studio flats are a fantastic and much-needed facility in the city centre.”

Every year YMCA Exeter provides supported accommodation for over 100 young people coming out of homelessness and needing the support of a loving community to move forward.

To find out more visit the YMCA Exeter website

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