Empty Homes Network

Best Local Authority / Community Housing Organisation Partnership Award 2015

Award certificate

This was the second year that this Partnership award has been presented at our Empty Homes Awards 2015 ceremony, (ceremony sponsored by Grafton UK Ltd). The Award  was jointly sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the Empty Homes Network itself, reflecting the commitment of both organisations to fostering partnership working between local authorities and community organisations.

This year there was a clear winner: Methodist Action North West and their three partner local authorities (Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancaster City Council) produced a very strong submission where both the shape of the partnership and the results were clearly indicated. In fact, we are grateful to Methodist Action North West for producing a follow-up case study which is available for download as a PDF file from our Practice Library, particularly as we can't easily reproduce the rich visual information contained in the submission on this web-page.

Awards Submission


Methodist Action North West (MANW) was awarded £500,000 in 2012 and £750,000 in 2013 via  the EHCGP.   In delivering this programme, we have come to realise that there is no unique solution to the problem of empty homes, but there is great strength in local knowledge, local experiences, local priorities & local resources.  It is essential that there is a partnership approach to the problem…..


Partnership working has enabled us to take a proactive approach to the problem, and respond in a flexible and strategic way to each property. This has enabled us to build our existing social lettings portfolio, creating high quality, affordable accommodation which will encourage long term, sustainable tenancies. As the relationship with our Local Authority partners has evolved and become established so have our other partnerships with local businesses and the local community.

Our Empty Homes Programme set quite onerous targets, both numerically and geographically – working across three key local authority areas in the North West:

  • Preston City Council
  • Lancaster City Council (including Morecombe)
  • South Ribble Borough Council


MANW is a charity that provides support, assistance and accommodation to people in housing need. The Preston based charity delivers services across the North West.  A Place to Live (APTL) is a Social Lettings Agency within the charity, set up with the sole aim of helping people in housing need who have come up against barriers when following traditional housing routes.

MANW secured the funding from the DCLG to help bring Empty properties back into use through a ‘One Stop Shop’ solution. Each property refurbishment was managed by the Empty Homes team who on completion passed the property over to the APTL team to manage for an agreed period of time. APTL offers a managed service and is the main point of contact for landlord and tenant. APTL manages the property on behalf of the owner and then sets up an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement with the tenants who will live in the property.

The Empty Homes programme managed to target the whole array of empty property examples, including houses, flats, flat conversions, flats over retail shops and conversion of retail & commercial buildings.


Collaboration extended to every stage of the process, allowing the actual number of staff working on the project to be kept to a minimum. one key person per organisation. This was very much a cyclical process where resources were shared. In the diagram below MANW is red and the Local Authority is blue.

Communication was paramount, which included quarterly whole team strategic meetings & regular individual area project site meetings.


The conversion of a former pub, outbuildings, hall, funeral directors & garage to create 24 new homes for affordable rent and regenerate a site close to the City Centre.

  • 4 x 1 bed & 3 x 2 bed flats
  • 2 x 1 bed & 15 x 2 bed houses
  • 9 years empty
  • £212,000 empty homes contribution
  • £359,000 owner contribution
  • LHA affordable rental rate


It is only through partnership working did we achieve an over delivery on the numbers of properties/bedroom spaces predicted at the start of the project. In addition to this we were able to provide very good value for money – with overall project costs over 40% less than the DCLG National Average maximum. We relied only on the DCLG funding and private owner investment, with some LA grants to realise a project – we did not use additional loan funding.

There were also the added benefits for our programme, this provided another aspect to partnership working - environmental improvements & community benefits; £706,260 of private investment into the local economy; and employment opportunities for local businesses. Our key legacy though will provide a home for between 223 and 413 people across the three areas, people who would otherwise be without an affordable place to live.

The partnership continues to work together towards securing further funding and projects as part of our joint exit strategy from the programme. A number of new, and creative, initiatives are under discussion with the expectation that the momentum achieved with this programme will not be lost, but developed and sustained into the future.

The Award Presentation

From left: Jon Fitzmaurice (self-help-housing.org), Alex Starritt (Preston CC), Diane Lund (Preston CC), Stephen Hetherington (Methodist Action, NW), Pradip Patel (South Ribble BC), David Clare (Habitat for Humanity Homes) and Nick Pritchard-Gordon (Reading BC and Chair of EHN)

Contact details for Award Winners and Sponsors

Through the Roof - Economist magazine takes a sober look at UK housing market

There is a short section on the over-hyped buy-to-leave phenomenon. Otherwise, the graph plotting 20-year international real house-price indexes is an eye-opener.

Nationwide announces new Empty Homes Grant programme

Nationwide website announcement

The Nationwide Foundation has launched a new, £1million empty properties funding programme to bring long-term empty properties back into use for people in housing need. This follows on from a previous, similar programme.

Applicants must be not-for-profit, non-statutory organisations and may seek funding in the form of grant or social investment or both. Bids may range between £100,000 and £175,000. Encouragement is given to projects that:

  • support the training and education of people;
  • acquire property by asset transfer;
  • implement environmental and energy saving aspects in refurbishments to benefit future tenants.

Full details of the new programme are available from the Nationwide Foundation website.

The deadline for applications is 1st November 2015.

If you have any queries about the application process, please contact Lorna Mackie on 01793 652618 or lorna.mackie@nationwidefoundation.org.uk

Details of early empty homes grants by Nationwide Foundation can be found here.

Agent offers empty homes to 20 ex-service personnel

A heart-warming tale of an estate agent (or letting agent?) using creative options to let 20 empty homes to ex-Service personnel.

The agent posted on Facebook and has had 64k+ shares:


Camarthenshire report reveals empty homes successes

Long term empty properties successfully fall in Barking and Dagenham

Empty Homes Agency launches campaign with new report

Empty Homes in England - report cover

The Empty Homes Agency has produced a report about the numbers of empty homes in England, making recommendations for some key measures to bring the numbers down.  The Agency has for many years been the custodian of figures about empty homes in England: but this beautifully-written report by Helen Williams is the first attempt for a more user-friendly approach to the statistics, featuring useful maps and clearly-written explanations of both methodology and interpretation.

For the first time, too, the EHA has commissioned some additional research by (Cobweb Consulting) which shows how the percentages of homes empty– both long- and short-term - correlate with house prices and deprivation. The results here are valuable but not surprising: the worse the deprivation and the lower the house prices, the more the number of empties.

In keeping with its user-friendly approach, the report features maps of the numbers of empty homes by local authority area, illustrating both absolute numbers and percentages of dwelling stock.

Practitioners will be most interested in the measures the EHA has chosen to recommend in order to address the problem of empty homes which we reproduce in full:

  1. Local authorities (as many do already) should have an empty homes strategy for their area, with aspirations to reduce the number of long-term empty homes and to attract and allocate resources to refurbish empty properties for those in housing need. Local authorities should work in partnership with property owners, housing associations and community organisations to realise their plan.
  2. Local authorities should (as many do already) take a case work approach with owners of empty properties to encourage, advise and support them to bring their homes back into use. Dedicated empty homes staff are a good way of ensuring that the council can act on information about empty homes and build up expertise in working with the owners, including in taking enforcement action where necessary.
  3. Central Government should re-establish dedicated grant funding programmes to support local authorities, housing associations and community organisations to bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing across England. By investing about £450 million, an additional 20,000 affordable homes could be created from long-term empty properties by 2020.
  4. Central Government should re-establish dedicated support for local authorities in areas with high concentrations of empty properties and this should extend neighbourhood regeneration approaches which reduce the number of long-term empty properties and bring wider area improvements.
  5. Local authorities with high concentrations of empty properties should explore how best to attract people back into these neighbourhoods, including by transferring streets of abandoned properties to community organisations to refurbish and rent them out to people in housing need; or selling homes below their market value to provide opportunities for people who would not otherwise be able to afford to buy the housing they need in the local housing market.
  6. The Mayor of London and local authorities in high value areas, should conduct studies to understand the extent and impact of buy-to-leave and review what measures they could adopt to incentivise people to bring those properties to the market for sale or rent; and to deter people in the first place, from buying properties primarily for their capital appreciation, rather than as a home to live in or rent out. Central Government should look at the case for supporting additional measures to deter buy-to-leave that may require legislation at a national level.

Practitioners will welcome these suggestions; in a subsequent piece we will look at them in more  detail in the context of our  own 5-point Policy Document recommendations and our submission to “Spending Review 2015”.

You can access the Empty Homes Agency report via our Information Library here.

Empty homes to help solve housing crisis - BBC news item

This BBC news item features Leeds Empty Homes Doctor Gill Coupland, Helen Willaims (Chief Exec, EHA)  and a community-led housing project.

Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year Award 2015

This year's Empty Homes Awards attracted a wide range of impressive submission and were presented at our May Conference at a ceremony sponsored by Grafton UK Ltd. We'll be highlighting the details  of winning submissions over the next few weeks.

Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year 2015

The first award to be presented was for Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year.  This award, sponsored by Grafton itself, is now the longest-standing award to be presented at our Conference. There were two entries this year that were so strong that the Panel felt it had little option but to announce joint winners: Benard Goren of Hull City Council and Zainul Pirmohamed of Stoke City Councit.  The awards submissions speak for themselves:

Joint Winner: Benard Goren

Position: Project Liaison Officer, Housing Strategy and Renewal, Kingston-upon-Hull City Council

The programme

Since 2012 the Hull City Council and six community organisations have worked to tackle empty properties across the city and to deliver neighbourhood transformation in three areas with ‘clusters’ of empty homes through refurbishment including external solid wall insulation, frontage improvements and tackling all empty properties.  The programme has successfully delivered improvements to almost 900 properties and has resulted in 585 empty homes being brought into use, which represents more than 10% of the properties brought into use across the national programme.

This could not have been achieved without the determination and tenacity of the Council’s Project Liaison Officer, Benard Goren. 


Ben’s role is wide ranging covering landlord engagement for both the empty homes programme and for sign up to frontage improvements and external solid wall insulation schemes.  Using his exceptional negotiation and engagement skills, Ben has secured more than 98% sign-up to improvements in the three clusters areas, and has:

  • Secured 44 leases against empty properties;
  • Secured 121 owner self-refurbishments;
  • Supported delivery of a further 176 purchase and repair refurbishment (commercial conversions/residential refurbishments)

To achieve this Ben has been extremely pro-active in his approach to ensure that properties are brought into use.  Ben has worked tirelessly with mortgage providers to gain their consent to lease agreements and has been unrelenting in his engagement with key contacts to ensure that any barriers to consent have been addressed.  This has resulted in consent being provided by two large providers and a number of smaller lenders.  Without Ben’s commitment to addressing this barrier the majority of the 44 leases would not now be complete and back into use.  Additionally he has also paved the way for future leases for Hull City Council and housing providers/local authorities across the country.  

Another key element of Ben’s work has been linking with the Private Housing enforcement team and starting enforcement action where owners are unwilling or unable to bring their properties back into use. Ben has worked successfully with the team to secure 5 Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) and progressed enforcement against 56 owners.  More than 50% of these are now back into use and enforcement against the remainder continues. 

Ben has also been the key co-ordinator of the empty homes partnership, made up of the Council and six community organisations which won the Empty Homes Award for Best Local Authority/Community Partnership 2014.  Ben’s landlord engagement activity resulted in a constant flow of empty property referrals to the 6 community organisations and has resulted in a further 243 empty homes being brought into use.  Ben has maintained communication between the Council and the community partners and has provided advice and support and unlocked access to other Council teams for partners. 

A key risk to any empty homes programme is securing utility meters in order to let properties upon completion of refurbishment.  With very long term empty properties this is particularly challenging. Ben has tackled this issue head on and has successfully built a strong relationship with a utility provider which means that meter installations are no longer a significant risk to re-letting.

Ben has taken a pivotal role in addressing barriers to bringing empty homes into use.  Without Ben’s dedication, innovation and excellent organisations skills Hull’s citywide empty homes programme would not have been such a success and 585 empty properties would not now be quality homes.  Furthermore, without this track record, the Council would not have secured further grant funding of £6.2 million to continue the programme for the next three years. 

[Below - Dave Stott  of Grafton presents the award to Benard Goren]

Joint Winner - Zainul Pirmohamed

For Zainul, this is the second time around - Zainul won the award a few years ago.  This time the Panel recognised her excellent work around Stoke's £1 house initiative that has captured so many headlines.

Job title: Project manager, £1 houses, Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Stoke-on-Trent’s innovative ‘£1 houses’ project has become one of the biggest news stories the city council has ever been involved in. The renovation and sale of a cluster of empty terraced houses in the Cobridge area of the city last year has fascinated readers and viewers locally, nationally and in places as far afield as Russia, China and Scandinavia. More importantly, the project has stimulated debate here in the UK about the problems associated with empty homes and how local authorities can intervene to mitigate and ultimately reverse the damage that derelict properties inflict on communities.

In Stoke-on-Trent, our Clusters of Empty Homes team has not only succeeded in bringing 33 empty properties back into use through the £1 houses project, but has used them as a tool with which to effect social uplift as well as physical regeneration. The result is a holistic intervention aimed at revitalising the local community and giving residents old and new a sense of ownership – not just of bricks and mortar, but of a stake in their own futures.

However, this unmitigated success story could so easily have ended with the auction of 33 boarded-up properties to the highest bidders. Such would have been the traditional method of disposal when confronted with empty homes in an area of traditional low housing demand and market failure. It took a unique individual to see the merit in trying a different and riskier approach. Instead of viewing the cluster of empty houses around the Portland Street neighbourhood as a problem, Zainul Pirmohamed saw an unprecedented opportunity to effect real and lasting change that would benefit not only the new buyers, but also the existing residents. She saw that by bringing so many homes back into productive use in one go, the city council would achieve a critical mass of change that would amplify the resulting social impact on the area and create its own momentum to spur continuing improvement.

The risks involved were considerable, but Zainul realised that the risk of not taking any risks was greater. Doing nothing, or at least nothing different, was simply not an option because the costs of failing to intervene were likely to be far greater than the financial risk of proceeding with a hitherto untried policy initiative. Selling the properties at auction was likely to see them fall into the hands of private landlords, thereby perpetuating the very cycle of underinvestment, poor housing quality and social deprivation that had contributed to housing market failure there in the first place. Zainul understood very early on that ultimate success would depend on two factors: the simultaneous sale of all the properties and the attitude of the buyers to achieving and participating in positive social change and community regeneration.

Zainul and her team devised a set of criteria for selecting potential buyers which ensured that applicants would have to be able to demonstrate strong local connections, modest incomes through employment and more importantly a passion for the project itself. This step ensured that the £1 houses scheme would effectively recruit a sizeable contingent of engaged volunteers with the enthusiasm and commitment to drive progress, champion community involvement and help to shape a lasting legacy of sustainable urban regeneration. Zainul also worked behind the scenes to establish an informal communication network for the new residents to make sure that the incoming residents had formed a cohesive group and had already set about devising improvement ideas for the area long before the renovation work on their future homes had been completed. As these bonds strengthened, Zainul worked to create tentative links between the £1 house buyers and the area’s existing residents to pave the way for future integration and reinforce the sense of a revitalised community, rather than a transplanted one.

Zainul richly deserves to win the award for practitioner of the year, not only for what she and her dedicated team have already achieved in such a relatively short timeframe, but for what she has set in motion. She would be the first to say that the £1 houses project is far from complete – it is a 10 year vision of urban and social renewal and we are now in the just the second year of implementation. But what she has achieved goes far beyond the boundaries of Cobridge and has implications for all communities affected by the common blight of empty homes. The £1 houses project has not only brought 33 empty homes back into productive use and transformed the lives of the families living there. It has also developed a new cost-effective, sustainable and replicable blueprint for how local authorities can exploit their empty homes issues to deliver urban and social renewal and reframed the debate about how we use the powers at our disposal to maximum effect.
[Below: Dave Stott  of Grafton presenting the award to Zainul]
Dave Stott of Grafton presenting the award to Zainul Pirmohamed

Highly Commended - David Sanderson

But that wasn't all, this year. David Sanderson of Carlisle City Council had stiff competition in Benard and Zainul, but the Panel thought his submission was strong enough to warrant a "highly commended" award:

Role: Empty Property Officer with Carlisle City Council

David started at Carlisle City Council in November 2013 and has been a real asset to the Private Sector Housing Team. In April 2012 we were fortunate enough to secure government funding through the CLG cluster funding for empty homes, although Officers worked together from Allerdale, Copeland and Carlisle to put together the bid, the City Council needed an officer in the vacant empty property officer post, who could drive forward the vision we had to deliver the scheme in Carlisle.

From the start of the project David worked tirelessly to build up his knowledge on empty homes and develop his local knowledge of the empty property problems in the district. David had previously worked with mainly registered providers as a charted building surveyor, so joining the Council he also had to learn the workings of a Local Authority environment and the subtle political differences at play in the organization.

David has developed excellent relationships within the Council with internal departments, collectively improving systems of working to get the best end result for empty home owners and break down barriers that improve customer service. David takes a real passion in his work to go the extra mile for empty home owners, providing them with a whole host of advice and assistance but more importantly he gives the owners the positive support they need to encourage empty home owners to bring their properties back into use.

By the end of March 2015, Carlisle City Council had successfully delivered 54 empty homes back into use through the cluster bid program, exceeding the target of 45 homes. Looking forward David is increasingly looking at new ways of working from empty homes finance models to positively networking to get the best deal for Carlisle, he is also keen as a non enforcement officer to learn the available tools should they be required.

A particular project that David worked on recently to promote the Empty Homes in Carlisle was the empty property info graphics material which I have attached to the e-mail. David developed the concept following involvement with the Local Plan, he then carried out the data analysis to draw down the actual values in the material and pushed it forward to get the information leaflet. I think the material clearly helps the Council demonstrate the worth of bringing empty homes back into use, but it also send out a really positive measure about Carlisle as a whole and the area. Since the leaflet was produced we have been able to share this information with Colleagues, Council members, key stakeholders and empty home owners to raise awareness of empty homes in the district and push the empty homes agenda firmly on the Councils list of priorities.

[Below: Dave Stott  of Grafton presenting the award to David]

Dave Stott of Grafton presents Highly Commended award to David Sanderson

Is this the solution to Japan's glut of empty homes? - FT story