There is no denying that when I read a good case study about a project that brought one or a number of properties back into use, through positive partnership work and quite often sheer bloody-mindedness, it warms the heart that a community has contributed to and benefited from this.
The stories are often charted through the traditional ‘before and after’ images of the property, interspersed with those of the involved partners in various poses and states of dustiness as they strip way the old and fit the new. The group shot at the end signifies a job well done and the tired but smiling people stand there, faces full of pride. Much deserved.
These stories are important and long may they continue. Yet, I can’t help but think that the range of case studies on offer should be wider. Not only this, but that there is a gaping hole that would take tons of cavity wall insulation to fill!
Long-Term Empty Property: focus on the owners and the funding
I think empty homes case studies need to take a different approach, or at least incorporate the most important dimension; the actual owners of an empty property. It is through developing case studies around the owners that will resonate most with other owners when it comes to making locally funded projects successful.
For any local government officer or local social enterprise working to bring back empty homes into use, convincing the owner of said property that it is a good idea and ‘X’ type of funding is available to assist, can be an absolute nightmare; and I don’t necessarily blame the owner for not engaging, as being the owner of a long-term empty property is not always a straightforward position to be in.
From what I have seen or, more to the point what I have not seen, is a focus away from the journey of the building. What I would really like to see, what I think would be really beneficial, is the story of how and why the owner of a long-term empty property, decided to engage with a particular project.
If it was a low interest loan or lease management product they signed up to, who was it with, how much did it cost, why did they choose that particular option? Did they work with a social enterprise or the local authority? How much work did they do themselves: was it shared, or all done via a local apprenticeship project? What was their motivation for engaging in the first place? Was the commitment required from them long or short term? What reward did they ultimately get from it: Financial? Social? Community? Did they have doubts? On reflection, was it worth the effort? (Or were they able to just hand over the whole project, from which they have now reaped the benefits??) And the key question: Would they recommend other owners of empty homes do the same???
I believe it is the human case study that sells the opportunity, not the one about the bricks and mortar; the bricks and mortar are only a reflection of the people, partners and a community, who chose to do something about a particular issue.
Develop the case study around those owners of empty homes who have engaged with projects and I believe you will see more come forward and be prepared to take up the opportunity to develop their property.
I would love know peoples thoughts on this, more so, if there were case studies in existence that could be shared!