16 October 2020: The importance of community

~ How one Stonewater colleague was able to buy a home in an area she felt connected to ~

There have been many lessons learned over recent months during the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of being part of a thriving and supportive community being one that most of us have recognised.

Emily Cook

Before the pandemic, Emily Cook Customer Experience Manager for Retirement Living at Stonewater, had already found herself benefitting from getting more involved with parents from her children’s school and neighbours. Her newfound network, making her feel part of her local community, became particularly important to Emily as a single parent.

After separating from her husband, Emily was not in the financial position to take out a big enough mortgage or to pay the high private rent prices for other homes, in the same area, by herself.

Understanding how important the role community plays in every aspect of our lives and not wanting to move her children to another school, Emily was left feeling like her only available option would be to move back into her parents’ home.

“My husband at the time and I owned a home together in an area on the other side of Birmingham and had made the decision to move to Bromsgrove,” said Emily.

“Keen to move, we decided to rent a house in the area we liked and wait for our original home to sell before looking at buying again. However, not long after moving we made the decision to separate, and my husband returned to our former home leaving me until the end of the tenancy to find something more long-term.”

“My children had settled in really well and I was conscious of avoiding having to make more changes, like moving school, at an already confusing time. But the properties were just too expensive, and I honestly felt like I was going to have to take 50 steps backwards to ensure I kept a roof over my family’s head.”

To add to the dilemma, Emily’s parents who were the primary carers after school whilst she was at work had moved over to Bromsgrove to be closer to the family and reduce travel time.

“We had everything in place to make sure there was minimal disruption to my children’s routine and at a snap of the finger, it felt like it had all been for nothing,” she continued.

Having worked for Stonewater for 12 years, Emily has been used to the introduction of various award schemes and initiatives during her time, but she had never imagined the launch of myOwnHome – a scheme able to help her overcome the obstacle of having a place that would be home for her and her family.

myOwnHome gives eligible colleagues the opportunity to choose a home that is available on the open market, either a new build or re-sale home, which Stonewater then purchases on their behalf. Colleagues then have the option to buy a share of their home, ranging from 25 to 75 percent, depending on what’s affordable to them and then pay discounted rent on the remaining share.

“Ironically, I’d been asked to provide feedback on what I thought was just random ideas, which included the myOwnHome scheme. I had no idea that Stonewater actually had plans to launch such a scheme and so, when I was at our Company Day last year and they unveiled the video I had no idea it would be about that.”

“I find it mind-blowing that Stonewater want to support their colleagues as much as they do, especially with something so important like buying a home.”

Following the sale of her old home, Emily had enough for a deposit and to take advantage of the pilot scheme.

“I would never have been able to buy a home like the one we now live in, without the support of myOwnHome. I’m the proud owner of a three-bed detached house in a cul-de-sac where coincidentally six of my daughter’s friends also live and it’s about three miles from where we lived before.”

“Being able to secure a home before the pandemic was an absolute lifeline. My new neighbours are all quite close-knit and they welcomed me into the area with open arms.

“Knowing that I’m a single parent they all offered their help during lockdown and making sure we were ok. You can’t buy the feeling of community and I’m so thankful to have been able to stay in an area that I feel I belong.”