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From Taskforce to task farce


The recently published report by the Independent Task Force into the Grenfell fire recovery makes frustrating reading. Leaving aside the detail, the bigger picture is one where the Grenfell survivors are caught in the middle of an experiment to reconstruct on the fly a local authority which all concerned agree failed abjectly in its initial response to the tragedy. 

Central to any understanding of the situation must be a recognition that, along with the more tangible destruction of lives and property, the other big casualty has been trust, with Grenfell activists reportedly refusing to recognise the authority of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  Rather than accept this loss of trust as an over-riding factor which would warrant radical intervention to secure the well-being of the survivors, the Taskforce has been forced to limit its role to chivvying the local authority along, to get it to mend itself in real time, so to speak. 

Government fiddles while New Homes Bonus burns

One of the few positives to emerge from the National Audit Office's investigation into New Homes Bonus - other than its acknowledged stimulus to local authority efforts to bring empty homes back into use - was that it was easy to understand.[1]

Obviously that couldn't be allowed to continue so the government has come up with a raft of proposals about how to make it more complicated as laid out in the recent 'Technical Consultation' on the 2018-19 local government finance settlement, where the majority of questions concern the New Homes Bonus . 

Baseline threshold

Actually, the first such complication has already been implemented in the 2017-18 NHB payments i.e. the baseline threshold of 0.4%.  This meant drastic reductions in the amounts of NHB earned by all local authorities, but by some much more than others.  As far as financial planning went, it didn't help that the government had only consulted on a 0.25% threshold but then introduced the baseline at the higher figure.

Property Guardian Pocket Guide - 1st draft published by University of York

Building on the interim findings of the current Property Guardian Research project, Professor Caroline Hunter and Jed Meers at York Law School have compiled a draft ‘Local Authority Pocket Guide to Property Guardians.’

They intend the guide to provide a 101 grounding in the phenomenon and address some of the key issues, particularly: the lease/licence distinction, the application of controls and standards under the Housing Act 2004, and statutory nuisances under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

You can download the draft copy here. They would really welcome any comments or suggestions as the final version is developed.  The aim is to published it in November 2017. If you have any suggestions for additions or improvements, or questions you have which are not covered, please contact them at: contact@propertyguardianresearch.co.uk.


Bolsover District Council Celebrate Empty Homes Week

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North East Derbyshire District Council Celebrate Empty Homes Week

North East Derbyshire District Council are celebrating Empty Homes week by holding an event for owners of empty properties across the District. The event has been jointly organised between the Council and Action Housing - who are a Social Housing provider - and has been designed to promote their 'Sustainable Tenancy Project' which aims to provide housing for young people aged 18-24 who have support needs.

Chris Skinner receives posthumous award

EHN members will be pleased to hear that Chris Skinner has been honoured by our local Law Society. There was a spontaneous standing ovation at the awards ceremony whilst Chris’ children went up on stage to receive the award on his behalf.

The press announcement is reproduced below:

Local government lawyer Chris Skinner has been posthumously awarded for his outstanding contribution to the legal profession in Norfolk by the Norwich and Norfolk Law Society.

Empty Homes Week announcement

A letter has gone out to Chief Executives and Leaders of local authorities from Helen Williams of the charity Empty Home, announcing Empty Homes Week 2017.  We're sure our  members will be pulling out the stops to make the week a successful one.

The full text of the letter is reproduced below:

Dear Colleague,

Grenfell and empty homes - EHN draft contribution to the Inquiry

I have just posted a discussion draft of a document that may be submitted to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and that explores the relevance - or potential relevance - of empty homes for the disaster.

Given media reports of Grenfell survivors continuing to live in hotels, the frequent references to empty homes in Kensington and Chelsea, and the headlines when senior Labour politicians proposed requisitioning empty homes to meet the survivors' immediate housing needs, some kind of formal input from the Network seems essential.

London Mayor calls for higher EHP on luxury empties


Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has written to the government requesting powers to levy higher council tax on empty high-value homes. The press release does not state what level of tax should be charged but says it should be set

'at a meaningful rate that would incentivise occupation, or at the very least generate a more substantial receipt that could support investment in new affordable homes and other measures to tackle the housing crisis.'

Best Before-and-After Photos Award 2017 - winners

This was a new category in our Empty Homes Awards and it produced more entries than we have ever had, in any category.

Sponsorship from Cromwood Social

We also had a new sponsor, in the shape of London social housing provider Cromwood Social thanks in part to the advocacy of  Abdus Saleh, their Head of Investment and Development, who has had a long-time involvement with empty homes issues as an enabler.

Contributing to the Conference Brochure, the organisation wrote: