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EXETER: 44 Grade II Victorian alms cottages refurbished for affordable rent

Historic alms houses in Exeter
Credit: Cornerstone Housing

Cornerstone Housing, Exeter City Council, Homes England.

By the early 2000’s, the Mount Dinham Cottage Trust recognised that the resources needed to address essential repairs–let alone update the cottages to modern standards–far exceeded its funds. To prevent the cottages from being sold to a private developer and become forever lost to the affordable housing sector a solution was required. Cornerstone was identified as the ideal partner for the project because of its great track record in refurbishing its own stock.  
The Grade II listed almshouses have provided important and much-loved affordable housing to older members of Exeter’s community since 1862. Following extensive consultation with residents, all of the work was undertaken by Cornerstone’s own direct labour force except what required specialist stonemasons. The skill and dedication of Cornerstone’s team was crucial for the success of the project. 
This painstaking programme of careful and sympathetic modernisation was quite challenging, not least because residents had to be temporarily relocated, one block at a time, to neighbouring houses. The mouldy, cold rear extensions were replaced with well-lit and well-insulated ones and created more usable space between the homes. The very steep inner staircases were removed and replaced with more accessible stairs. Other works involved were: tackling dry rot, laying new roof slates, upgrading and installing new insulation and windows, plumbing and wiring, including gas central heating. Entirely new kitchens, bathrooms and downstairs toilets were built. Another feature, never imagined by the almshouses original founders, was the installation of a communal TV, satellite and broadband system serving all cottages. 
As custodians of the Mount Dinham cottages, Cornerstone is committed to ensuring that the homes will provide vastly improved living conditions for the residents whilst preserving the estate’s rich history and unique character. The residents have complemented the communal 19th century grounds with their own planting of flowering tubs and an allotment area. The estate has recently been recognised with a Britain in Bloom award. 
What do the residents think?  Mrs C. said “I am over the moon with the transformation of my house. I’d lived here for 13 years and it had got to the point where it really needed some work.” 

In this flagship scheme Cornerstone’s commitment to its core values to quality and sustainability of its stock ensured an important piece of Exeter’s heritage has been maintained and cared for. A Homes England grant of £600k was awarded for the latter phases of the scheme. 
Youtube link: Mount Dinham restoration project open day

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