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State of the Nation 2016 - Politics

A previous ‘state of the nation’ article reviewed the situation with English local authority empty homes staff, based on a Freedom of Information request sent out by the Network over the Autumn. In today’s article we explore the wider context in which practitioners are operating.

Background

When the Conservative government was elected, somewhat unexpectedly, in May 2015, various empty homes funding programmes had come to an end as of March 2015.  In the run-up to March 2015, the Empty Homes Network made representations to DCLG to persuade the then Coalition government to allow underspend to be rolled forwards beyond March 2015.[1] It would be obvious to anyone that knows anything about construction that building development projects can over-run for reasons that are outside the control of the project manager.  Thus an absolutely rigid cut-off date meant that organisations could not take the risk of starting grant-funded projects in 2014 unless they were absolutely confident they could complete them by the end of March 2015.

State of the Nation 2016 - People

As the dust starts to settle after Empty Homes Week, it is time to take stock of where the empty homes world has arrived, in the closing months of 2016. To throw some light on the current picture, the Empty Homes Network conducted a survey over the Autumn to find out what staff were employed in addressing the issue of private sector empty homes in each local authority area within England.  Of course this does not provide any insight into the excellent work being done by community organisations and the private sector, but it does allow us to get a feel for the status with official local strategies.  This was a follow-up to a similar survey submitted under Freedom of Information legislation in late 2012),[1] allowing us to compare the results of the two surveys to plot trends.  

Government should give more to community groups says self-help-housing.org

Jon Fitzmaurice OBE, Director of self-help-housing.org, has called for a new round of funding for community housing organisations, building on the success of the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme 2012-15.

A press release was issued on Tuesday, 29th November, as part of Empty Homes Week and reads as follows:

Call For Another Empty Homes Community Grants Programme To Bring Empty Properties Back Into Use To Meet Housing Need

It’s Empty Homes Week and the Government have just announced an extra £1.4 billion to create additional 40,000 new homes, but there’s no funding to tackle the 200,000 plus existing long-term empty properties, capable of providing much needed accommodation.  

Poll shows strong support for government action on empty homes

Charity Empty Homes has launched Empty Homes Week by announcing the results of a poll that show a strong desire amongst the public for the goverment to do more about the issue of empty homes. 

The Press Release reads as follows:

Strong public support for the Government to place a greater priority on tackling empty homes

To coincide with the start of National Empty Homes week (28th November to 2nd December), new research from the national campaigning charity, Empty Homes, has found that over four in five (83%) British adults believe the Government should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes. This has increased five percentage points in the two years since Empty Homes last commissioned ComRes to put the same question to the public.

Two in five (39%) say that empty homes are a blight on their local area, and three quarters (76%) believe their local authority should place a higher priority on tackling empty homes.

OTHER STORIES

Flexibility and extra £1.4billion may help empty homes bids

The Chancellor's Autumn statement offered £1.4billion of additional funding for affordable housing and, importantly, removed the restrictions on tenure which had diverted nearly all the capital budget to home ownership. These changes allow some room for hope that empty homes bids might get funded, although a lack of appetite amongst housing associations and perceived issues around value-for-money may still prove major impediments.

Empty Homes Event, Carlisle and Cumbria 2016

Empty Homes Event, Carlisle and Cumbria 2016                  

Theme: Solutions and opportunities for empty property owners in Carlisle and Cumbria

Date & Time: 9.30am - 1.30pm, Friday 2 December 2016 Venue: Civic Centre, Carlisle CA3 8QG

Guests: Empty property owners, property developers, private & social landlords, senior housing managers and officers, community groups, councillors.

EHN submits evidence to APPG

The Empty Homes Network has now submitted its evidence to the National Housing Taskforce set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Planning. The final documents were sent to Lord Richard Best, Chair of the workstream associated with empty homes, Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who were providing the secretariat for the workstream.

EHN Empty Homes Survey 2016 on its way

We are about to write to England's 326 housing authorities asking them to complete a simple survey about the staff resources deployed to tackle private sector empties in their area.

We will be emailing the addresses we have for Freedom of Information requests, but initially we will not be presenting this as an FOI request, in order to avoid the associated bureaucracy. We are expecting the FOI addressee to pass the email down to operational levels - so it may come to our members eventually.

Empty Homes Week announcement

The charity Empty Homes has writtent to the Leaders/Mayors of the council-tax-collecting authorities in England announcing  Empty Homes Week and requesting them to provide information about their empty homes staff.

The text of the email  is given below:

We are writing to suggest ways your local authority can get engaged in Empty Homes Week 2016, and also to update you on our work at Empty Homes-the national campaigning charity.

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