‘I like being independent,’ says Mehmet, sitting in his living room on Portobello Square with his brother Ahmet. ‘It’s just little things, like being able to do my own shopping. I didn’t expect living on my own to feel this good.’
Mehmet has lived most of his life with his mum and brothers on Wornington Green, but now has his own new social rent flat on Bonchurch Road. As part of the regeneration project, Catalyst are offering eligible adults of existing households the chance to move into their own new home at Portobello Square, instead of being rehoused with their family. Mehmet moved temporarily into a studio flat when his family moved out of their old home, and got the keys to his own new place in July 2017.
‘I wanted my own place,’ he says, ‘and without the regeneration, I could never have done it. I couldn’t afford to rent privately, and to get a social rent flat on my own I’d have had to be on the list for ages. This was a good opportunity.’
‘Catalyst showed me the flat before I moved, and I was really happy. The studio I was in before wasn’t even half the size of this. I feel relaxed when I’m here. My favourite room is the sitting room, and I also like the fact that there are no stairs – it makes it really easy to get around.’ Ahmet remembers his brother’s face as he arrived in his new home: ‘He looked really happy, like he was going to fly!’
Ahmet lives with his and Mehmet’s mum, also in one of the new homes. He remembers fondly the time they all spent under the same roof. ‘We’ve always lived together,’ he says, ‘since the 1970s. Sometimes it could be mad, especially when the grandchildren came over, but it was jolly.’
‘It does feel quiet now, but it hasn’t changed our relationships,’ Ahmet says. ‘Mehmet still sees mum every day. As soon as he wakes up, he comes over to have breakfast at our place, but now he and I can have some time on our own at his place. Sometimes we have a cup of tea or coffee on the balcony to get some fresh air.’
Mehmet’s looking forward to his mum visiting. “I think she’ll come round a lot – she’ll like the balcony,’ he says. ‘I’ve had my younger brother and his wife to visit too. They liked the flat so much they wanted to swap!’
And it’s not just in their own family that things feel familiar. ‘Mehmet’s neighbour lived next door to us in our old flat,’ says Ahmet. ‘We’ve known him since we were children, and his mum and dad live next door to me and our mum now. The new owners of the private sale homes haven’t really got to know us yet, but they’re still getting to know the area – I think it takes about five or six years to really get to know your neighbours.’