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Tenant design initiative aims to spruce up social housing

Council tenants are to be given free access to architects to help them tidy up their homes and neighbourhoods in an initiative to be launched next year.

For the first time, council, private and social housing tenants in the most disadvantaged communities across the UK will receive design advice alongside more standard skills training in areas such as tackling crime and establishing community businesses. They will be able to have oneto-one meetings with architects on anything from renewing a local park to interior design. Small projects grants worth between £1,000 and £5,000 will also be available under the scheme.

The initiative will be managed by the Architecture Foundation in association with the National Tenant Resource Centre (NTRC) and follows the award of a three-year grant from the Glasshouse Trust. The NTRC currently runs residential courses for tenants to build up their organisational capacity, but the design training is likely to be delivered in a different way, possibly through a freephone number linked to a network of architects across the country.

Resident leader George Nicholson of the North Southwark Community Development Group welcomed the move: 'It's a good idea, it allows for tenants to take control of their environment and pieces of space which are underused and abused. 'He also welcomed the formalisation of a process which has 'being going on for years' and said that it might reduce the financial risk to architects of working on small projects in poor areas. 'This is the first time there will be aesthetic training for council tenants, 'said AF director Lucy Musgrave.

James Pickard of Cartwright Pickard gave the scheme a cautious welcome but warned that any resident-led design initiatives should be checked carefully against local authorities'housing plans.

The initiative follows last month's government pledge to tackle the £19 billion backlog in repairs and modernisation work to the country's social housing stock with an extra £1. 8 billion spent over the next three years.

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