project snapshot

Affordable housing redevelopment
To provide affordable homes with access to jobs and transport links, for young people


Founded in 1846, YMCA Exeter is one of the oldest YMCAs in the world. As a local YMCA and member of this national and international movement, their aim is to create supportive, inclusive and energising communities where all young people can belong, contribute and thrive.

YMCA Exeter offers a variety of services, tailored to meet young people's physical, psychological and spiritual needs. As well as supported living and affordable accommodation, YMCA Exeter offers access to advice and support, activity groups for children and teenagers, mental health, wellbeing and resilience projects, and support for young ex-offenders adapting to life outside of prison.


YMCA Exeter's relationship with CAF Bank started in 2016. Discussions continued when its housing strategy was launched the following year.

In 2020, CAF Bank provided loan finance support, alongside co-funders Exeter City Council and Homes England, to help YMCA Exeter purchase and redevelop a disused warehouse in the city centre. Donations from charitable trusts, supportive individuals and businesses also helped raise the funds required to complete this £2.7m refurbishment project.

Officially opened in May 2022, Sidwell Studios is a groundbreaking initiative which now provides 26 self-contained studio flats for young people who are finding it difficult to afford accommodation in the city.

“We have been really impressed with how CAF Bank have supported us through every stage of the loan process and beyond,” says Gareth Sorsby, Joint CEO of YMCA Exeter.

“Having a relationship director as a key contact who makes regular visits to the development showed us that CAF Bank really are interested in the project and the social impact brought about by their financing.”

Having a relationship director as a key contact who makes regular visits to the development showed us that CAF Bank really are interested in the project and the social impact brought about by their financing".

Gareth Sorsby
Joint CEO, YMCA Exeter


The need for affordable accommodation for young people has been a long-term issue in Exeter. Over 62% of people waiting for accommodation there are in need of one-bed flats. Around a third of those are under 30. YMCA Exeter are developing homes that will be at the heart of the city centre, providing easier access to jobs and transport links.

“A few years ago, I started looking for a one-bed flat to move into by myself, as I felt it was time to move out of my parents' home. But it was impossible to find anything I could afford to rent,” says YMCA Exeter resident, Gemma.

“Housing is really expensive, but if I was to move out of the city I would lose the connection with my family and friends. So I’ve been living in YMCA Exeter accommodation since November 2019.

“I was working at the beginning of lockdown, but when my contract came to an end I’ve struggled to find long-term work. I can only get short-term contracts and there is no way I would be able to find somewhere to rent without a full-time job. This new housing project at YMCA Exeter gives me hope. To know there is the potential of a studio flat in the centre of town that I could afford would be amazing.”


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