‘Home-owners are jealous of us’ - How award-winning council home changed life for this couple
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
A couple living in one of the now Stirling Prize winning homes in Norwich have said moving in changed their lives completely.
Peter and Kier Osborne moved into one of Norwich City Council's social houses on Haslips Close in May of this year, having previously lived in a privately-rented property on Hughenden Road.
Since the move, they say their lives have been transformed, with the eco-friendly home saving them around £220 per month in utilities.
Mr and Mrs Osborne, 34 and 30 respectively, share a one bedroom flat on the estate with their three cats and say their new home is unlike any they've had before.
Mr Osborne said: "The thing that I notice the most is the temperature regulation. The only way we can tell it is cold is if we go outside.
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"It just does not feel like a council property at all - it is brilliant. People we know own properties and are jealous of ours."
Mr Osborne added that while he had fallen in love with the home, he would not entertain the idea of taking up a right to buy option in three years time.
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He said: "I don't agree with right to buy, I truly believe these houses should remain social housing, so for years to come they can turn around lives just like they have turned around ours."
Mrs Osborne added: "In the past we were at the stage where we basically only had £15 left to pay for food a week, so living here has just made the biggest difference for us.
"There is also a real community feel to living here - it's unlike anywhere else we have lived."
It is this community feel that fills Gail Harris, the city council's cabinet member for housing, with the most pride when she visits the award-winning housing development.
She said: "One thing we really try to do with all our housing schemes is create communities, so walking around here seeing children playing, people talking to one another and forming bonds actually makes me quite emotional. It's just wonderful
"I feel there is a real sense of pride in the area - people love living here so I am truly over the moon."
The houses are designed to an extremely specific set of characteristics, each aiming at maximise the energy efficiency of the homes - with the twofold goal of having minimal impact on the environment and slashing the overheads of tenants living in them.
Even the smallest details of the properties are designed meticulously to ensure maximum efficiency - from letterboxes being encased in external porches to reduce draughts to the angle of roofs, which are set to direct sunlight into homes.
Mrs Harris added: "These homes will now be the benchmark for social homes - not just for us as a council but across the country.
"Norwich has a proud history of building homes which is something we always look to continue, although we do have to plan all our developments carefully.
"It is a significant investment. We can't say we can replicate this exactly as we don't know what we are going to do next but will always try to build to the best environmental standards and build communities."
The innovative £17m project was awarded the highest honour of the Royal Institute of British of Architects, becoming the first development of its sort ever to claim the prize.
Laura McGillivray, chief executive of the city council said it was the crowning moment of her 14 years at the helm of the council, which is coming to an end later this year.
However, she was cautious over whether a scheme of this magnitude could be replicated.
She said: "It does cost quite a lot extra and there is a bit of a premium. Whether we would be able to do another scheme exactly like this would depend on the size of the site and the resources we have at the time, because obviously we are being squeezed by the government in terms of what we can spend."