There has been a flurry of media activity on empty homes since Friday 5 October. Chris Bailey, the campaign manager for Action in Empty Homes, has appeared in two stories that demonstrate the breadth of the empty homes issue.
In Kent, a street that was once part of housing provision for the Army in Canterbury, is at the centre of a row between the city council and the Ministry of Defence. The former Howe Barracks homes were owned by the MoD who say the empties were advertised through letting agents but have now been sold on. However, the local authority sees around 30 tinned properties left to fall into disrepair and believes these could have been brought into use as temporary accommodation or social housing to meet local needs. Chris appeared both on BBC News South East and ITV Meridian News arguing the case for greater action on empty homes
The Grenfell disaster appears to have prompted a rethink by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) about the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders. The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday 6 October “Millionaire owners of so-called 'ghost homes' in Britain's richest borough could be ordered to fill them with families to cope with the housing shortage, The Telegraph can disclose.”
In a premium access article, the council leadership is described as “desperate to get on the front foot over its treatment of social housing tenants and take a proactive stance in finding properties for them.” and wants the Government to relax the rules governing EDMOs so that any property - not just those that are vandalised - can be easily taken over if it has been vacant for two years.
Kim Taylor-Smith, the council's deputy leader, who leads on Grenfell and housing, said, "The vandalism prerequisite is the single biggest obstacle to using EDMOs. Many empty dwellings in this borough are high-end investment properties and are therefore looked after; many for example are within protected gated communities." Mr Taylor Smith was also interviewed on the Today programme on Saturday morning (starts at 51:04) about the strategy that he has asked Kit Malthouse, the present Housing Minister, to support.
Chris was quoted in the Telegraph article "We need to find a way to bring all England's 205,000 long-term unused properties back into use to help tackle the housing crisis. Councils need Government support to do this more quickly and more easily. An empty home is a wasted opportunity to change a family's life for the better."