Mid and East Antrim residents have been asked to play their part in an innovative new community project which will see a former church manse transformed into homes for vulnerable young people.
Ballymena Methodist Church and Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland have teamed up to turn the empty, landmark building in Ballymena into much needed multi-purpose community space and three one-bedroom apartments, which will provide affordable accommodation for those in need.
Young people have been disproportionately affected by a lack of affordable homes and singles make up more than 50% of those in housing stress, according to the charity.
The former Methodist manse, situated on the Ballymoney Road, was rented to commercial tenants but has been unused for the last couple of years.
Mid and East Antrim councillor Stephen Nicholl invited any residents who can help with the project to come along to the manse this Thursday (14 June) between 10am and 4pm.
He said those involved in the renovation particularly welcome anybody who can supply any materials for the refurbishment, as well as skilled construction workers, labourers and others who can lend a helping hand.
Cllr Nicholl added: “This is an incredible project and one I am very proud to be involved in.
“Council enjoys a close working relationship with Habitat for Humanity.
“The former church manse is an excellent building close to our town centre.
“It is an ideal location for these apartments and office spaces, and will provide much-needed housing for those who are currently facing challenges in their lives.
“Our residents are renowned for their generosity and civic spirit, so I hope they will turn out this Thursday and lend their support for this vital venture.
“My thanks to all of those involved in this project, including our Mayor Councillor Lindsay Millar, who will be joining us at the site along with other council colleagues to help us clear the building and continue the work.”
Rev Dr David Rock, Minister of Ballymena Methodist, said: “The congregation has been focused on how to best use the building in a way which enables the mission of the church to serve those in our community who feel isolated and excluded.
“Working with Habitat provides an opportunity to develop a community which will provide a safe, welcoming space to further develop our ‘Living Rooms’ project but also to include affordable accommodation to help young people.
“We hope the new space will be a useful resource for the whole community.”
Habitat say empty homes cost money and deprive communities of an opportunity for good quality housing.
Renovating vacant properties reduces blight, supports community regeneration and can help tackle antisocial behaviour.
The church is underpinning the project cost but the project needs more partners, community support and the volunteers who will help deliver the project.
Jenny Williams, Chief Executive, Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland, said: “With broad support this partnership will transform an old building and deliver positive, lasting change for communities and individuals.
“This project will bring together people of all ages and backgrounds, delivering opportunities to upskill for employment as well as affordable homes. We would love to hear from all those who might be willing to provide materials or other support to help deliver real impact in Ballymena.”
To get involved contact Ballymena Methodist Church on 02825656693 or Michael Gray, Community Project Manager at Habitat NI on 02892635635.