Tuesday 19th June 2018


A former hostel in Plymouth which had been empty for seven years has been converted into 11 rent- to-buy flats as part of Plymouth City Council’s ongoing quest to reduce empty homes in the city.

The Old School House in Millbay – formerly known as The Ship Hostel – is now occupied and had been vacant since 2011.

The flats are the result of a pioneering partnership between the Council, South Devon Rural Housing Association, QSH, and local building contractors Classic Builders. Representatives from all the organisations and local estate agents Maitlands attended a special ceremony to officially hand over keys to Clare, the first tenant to move into one of the flats.

Under the rent-to-buy scheme, a proportion of the tenant’s rental payments are put towards the deposit they need to secure a mortgage to buy their home (up to a maximum of 10%), whilst those who choose not to purchase during this time can continue renting their homes for a further 15 years.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing and Cooperative Development, said: “I’m absolutely delighted to see the conversion of the former Ship Hostel into 11 flats as part of our long- term commitment to reducing the number of empty homes in Plymouth.
“These are good quality homes and are a fantastic example of what can be achieved with cooperative working, when a range of partners work together in this way to bring long term vacant buildings back into use.
“We have committed £1m of funding to provide a range of initiatives to tackle empty homes and provide more homes for local people as part of our Plan For Homes.”

Steve Prime CEO of South Devon Rural Housing, said “We are pleased to be involved with this very innovative way of getting people into homeownership. The scheme allows tenants,not only to build a deposit whist paying rent, but importantly helps then build credit history making getting an all important mortgage more realistic. The project is a demonstration of what can be achieved when working in partnership for a common goal.”

Paul Stone Director at Maitlands Estate Agents, said: “This has been a fantastic scheme to be involved in, with so many people struggling to save enough money to get on to the property ladder this is the perfect opportunity for them. Rather than renting and effectively throwing money away this gives buyers an opportunity to be independent, build up a credit history whilst still saving there deposit.

“The response we have had has been fantastic with just the last few apartments remaining, this has been helped by the quality of the building both inside and out. We would love to see similar schemes to this rolled out across the City”

Mark Fielding, Director QSH, said: “QSH is very pleased to have worked with the Council, South Devon Rural Housing and our sub-contractor, Classic Builders, in bringing back into productive use this historic building. We hope this funding model can deliver more good quality housing at affordable rents and prices for tenants.”

Adam Brimacombe, Director of Classic Builders, said: "Classic builders were thrilled to be involved with such a great project in Plymouth city centre, delivered with our direct employed labour force and supply chain. We are pleased to support people in the local community, giving them the opportunity to get on the property ladder."

You can find out more about Plymouth’s work to tackle empty homes at