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Perth’s Y Centre: Homes, community and conservation

The Y centre on Atholl Street, Perth will restore and bring back into use two adjacent vacant and derelict buildings located on a prominent street within the Conservation Area. 

The Grade C Listed former church is being converted into a multi-functional Y Centre and Community Hub providing modern, flexible space for YMCA to assist disadvantaged young people to learn new skills both in the operation of the hub and during the construction. 

The adjacent derelict tenement will be repaired and converted to offer six flats at affordable let to young people. 

The accommodation offerings are independent, but linked to the Y-Centre services, and will be particularly of benefit to care leavers. Providing an unrushed and supportive steppingstone to fully independent living.

Tayside YMCA has owned the church building and the ground floor of the adjacent tenement for almost 20 years. 

It was formerly used as their office and base for their activities within Perth. As a result of substantial repairs being required and limited charity funds, they were forced to vacate the building and move into leased office premises which has restricted delivery of their services.

The aspiration of Perth YMCA has always been to redevelop and re-occupy the church building and repair the dangerous tenement. 

Several options were considered over the years, but financial resources have always been a severe constraint, as was the multi-ownership of the adjacent tenement building. 

Perth & Kinross Council’s Vacant Property Development Team have worked alongside YMCA Tayside to find a solution to these derelict properties and deliver the project. 

The big picture

Perth & Kinross Council has a broader empty homes remit, considering vacant property more generally. This enables a more holistic approach, particularly towards vacant town and city centre property through providing support to private owners to bring properties back into use, and where there isn’t a clear current use to consider adaptation to a new commercial, residential or community use.

The authority has dedicated feasibility grants and capital grants focussed on reuse and adaptation of city / town centre and historic properties. It also has grant funding (Empty Homes Initiative) and loan funding (Empty Homes Loans) available to bring back residential properties back into use for affordable let.

The benefits are wide ranging:

  • Benefits to the building, properties when in use are less likely to fall into disrepair and cause wider social and building fabric issues – particularly important when considering flats / terraced / semi-detached properties & properties in built up areas.
  • Regarding funding, depending on the property market there can often be a value deficit between cost of works required and end value of the property. Grants can assist in bridging this gap, particularly present in historic buildings. (Perth City Centre, and most of P&K’s regional town centres are covered by conservation areas).
  • Limitations on % of loan financing which can be accessed by developers for project financing can be a barrier. Grant funding and 0% interest loans can be helpful in bridging the gap

 

Delivering economic, health and social benefits

  • Increased resident population in town / city centre with wider demographic supporting local economy.
  • With more buildings brought into use and maintained, this creates a nicer environment where spin off economic activity occurs as people chose to live, work, spend time and invest in places that are pleasant and comfortable.
  • Properties being brought back into use, securing the embodied carbon in materials rather than demolition and new build.
  • Each property brought back into use assisting towards addressing the housing crisis.
  • Homes generally within established neighbourhoods, helping residents to live sustainable, healthy and affordable lives.

 

Supporting the most disadvantaged

The Y-Centre’s geographical location places the YMCA in optimal position to be able to address the needs of the most disadvantaged in Perth and wider surrounding areas. 

Of the three areas in Perth that fall within the 20% most deprived on SIMD, this  project is within walking distance. It is also located less than two minutes’ walk from most of the major bus routes that operate around Perth. 

To further support those using public transport the centre will offer travel compensation for anyone travelling by bus to access services.