Housing minister Mark Prisk officially opened the £4 million Maltings housing development in Bury St Edmunds earlier today.
The Havebury Housing Partnership scheme took seven years to come to fruition, turning a 19th century grade II listed building, which had stood derelict for 15 years into 35 new homes.
The scheme, which includes a mix of rented and shared ownership two and bed flats, was completed on March.
Today saw Havebury, other partners in the scheme, Mr Ruffley and Mr Prisk come together to officially open the scheme in Mildenhall Road.
Mr Prisk who is also a chartered surveyor: “It is very easy as a housing minister or indeed as a chartered surveyor to look at it as a building but actually housing is about homes.
“What we are talking about is one of the basic human needs which is shelter and families should have a roof over their heads regardless of what their background is.”
He praised the work Havebury was doing to bring redundant commercial buildings into housing use, as ‘very important’.
That was a sentiment backed by Mr Ruffley who said redundant buildings should be looked at for redevelopment ahead of greenfield sites.
“Winston Churchill said: ‘We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us’. “The buildings we live in are hugely important to our social fabric,” Mr Ruffley said.
The site, a former coal yard, was turned into a malthouse in 1874 by Jesse Gough.
It served as a shop but then stood empty for 15 years. Havebury identified it as a site for social housing in 2006.
Donald McKenzie, chairman of the Havebury board said: “The building you see before you is the culmination of many years of hard work by Havebury and its partners.”
MIT Architects design for the flats won The Bury Society’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Architecture.
The scheme was not without its challenges though – not least in mid-2012 when the contractors went bust leaving a half finished scheme.
Seamans Building Contractors stepped in and finished the job.
“Havebury is exceptionally proud – this is a scheme that required vision and tenacity,” said Mr McKenzie.
Karen Mayhew, chief executive of Havebury said: “We a delighted to have reached this day.
“It has taken huge energy and commitment, more than we ever thought it would.”
She said the flats met a specific need for more one and two bed homes, a need in part due to people living longer but also due to other factors such as broken relationships.
That in turn is allowing people in larger properties to down size, freeing up larger three and four bed homes
One family to do just that is The Smiths. The took advantage of a Havebury scheme whereby they were offered money to down size from their three bed home in Anselm Avenue after one of their grown children moved out.
“It is a nice new build. It is quiet. We really like it,” said Sue Smith.
Another tenant Anne Clarke, said: ““I really do love it. If I won Euromillions I would give Havebury a million because I am absolutely over the moon with this.”
And Susan Hindle, who lives in the flats said: “It is like having a suite in a fantastic hotel. The building is wonderful and it’s very safe and warm. It is such a lovely place to live.”