Thanks to a community share offer, residents in a disadvantaged part of North East Lincolnshire will have access to more affordable homes from an ethical community landlord.
East Marsh in Grimsby is one of the most deprived wards in England, with high poverty rates and low levels of education and employment.
The area is so named because it was previously a marsh. “During Grimsby’s years as a booming fishing town, they needed people to service the industry. So they drained the marsh and built houses on it,” said local resident, Billy Dasein.
But with the last of the ‘cod wars’ in the mid 1970s, fishing came to a complete halt. “Over the decades that followed, the area deteriorated and political austerity on top of that hasn’t helped any,” added Billy.
“It’s a very deprived place with the kinds of problems that come with poverty, including poor conditions on the streets and in homes where people are exploited by landlords.”
In 2017, Billy and other likeminded residents decided to take action. They created East Marsh United (EMU) – an organisation dedicated to regenerating the area through multiple community initiatives.
East Marsh United's community initiatives include outreach projects that get people together to simply connect – and to join forces to clean up local spaces. There are also popular creative activities including a regular podcast about the area and a writing group that is working towards creating a book.
Billy said: “We’ve started an East Marsh Peace Choir. After lockdown, when we could meet up again, it was emotional to get together with people and sing.
“We created an anthem for East Marsh, written by the people in the choir and the four schools in the area. And it’s really beautiful. I’m trying to find the money to get it professionally recorded.”
East Marsh United works to provide community education and health and wellbeing awareness too. They host the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and a credit union once a week to help local residents. And they also provide support to help people understand their benefit entitlements via the Million Pound Challenge.
In 2020, EMU set up East Marsh Community to convert derelict properties into decent, affordable homes for local residents. Billy said: “Council housing stock was sold in the early noughties to private landlords. Not a lot of care has gone into maintaining these houses and people are living in poor conditions."
With funding from Homes England, East Marsh Community was able to buy and refurbish three houses, which they now affordably let to local families.
Billy said: “One of these families was about to move out of the area because the house they were in had bare wiring, damp rooms and no skirting boards. Now they are really happy in their new home. They’re committed to staying here. And they’ve also become really active in the community.”
In March 2022, East Marsh Community launched a community share offer to raise £500,000 to create more housing for people in the area. The Community Shares Booster Fund has committed £25k matched equity to help them reach their target.
“It will enable us to buy 10 houses, get them refurbished and provide quality homes for 10 more local families,” said Billy. “We’re an ethical community landlord and it’s all about community wealth building. The money generated from rent will be kept and spent locally. That rent is not going to anyone elsewhere.
“Our eventual goal is have 100 houses. It would give 100 families an ethical community landlord. And the money generated would pay for up to five roles so people can continue to do key jobs in the community and work to regenerate the area.”
East Marsh’s community share offer closes on 31 May 2022 and at the time of writing, has reached £272,968 in pledges. “We’re over our half way point,” said Billy. “So whatever happens, we get to keep what we’ve raised so far and are now able to start planning to buy houses.”