Empty Homes Network

National Empty Homes Conference,
May 29th 2012, Birmingham

29 May 2012 10:00
Event Description: 

The Draft Programme for this essential event  has now been published - and we've kept costs even lower than last year, with big discounts for full Members of the Empty Homes Network.  See the attached Booking Form for further details.

We're pleased to announce that Andrew Stunell MP will be speaking and has offered to address questions submitted by our practitioners (you can register your questions here).

Others speakers include representatives from key organisations such as :

  • Homes and Communities Agency
  • Empty Homes
  • self-help-housing.org (Community Grants Programme)

We have practice sessions lined up on

  • councl tax
  • good service of notices
  • EDMOs
  • Empty Homes Strategies

We  expect to see new partnership schemes being presented by

  • GraftonLtd with Dave Stott (tracing agents and enforced sales)
  • Dee Rentals (new leasing options)
  • House Doctor (new options for owners)
  • Paul Palmer and Get Wise Gruoup leasing/sjupportedl housing options)

And of course, we will have our Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year Award

We have booked our conference venue at Maple House, Birmingham.  The venue provider is the same as for our joint London Conference in 2011. You can proceed with confidence that this is indeed  the date of the Empty Homes National Conference.

With budget cuts and ever-higher travel costs, we know that keeping the cost of attending as low as possible will be a big consideration.  The costs of delegate places will be comparable with previous years, as low as £115 for full members of the Empty Homes Network and with special options for small organisations.

You can minimise your travel costs by, for example coming the night before. Travelodge rooms in central Birmingham are currently available for 28th May (ie the night before the Conference) at £33 per night (as at 11th May).  (We have no commercial relationship with Travelodge).

To book your place, simply download the booking form, complete and return to events@ehnetwork.org.uk

Contact details: 

Enquiries can be sent to events@ehnetwork.org.uk

Deadline for comments on the Minutes of the BGM 2012 - 5th September

5 Sep 2014 23:59
Event Description: 

Deadline for suggesting amendments to the Minutes of the last (2012) Biennial General Meeting.

Contact details: 

Deadline for nominations to the Executive - 5th September

5 Sep 2014 23:59
Event Description: 

Deadline for nominations to the Executive. See the forum post for full details.

Contact details: 

New tool improves access to register of government land

The Cabinet Office has announced its Government Property Finder to help people find out about the government's property portfolio, including both surplus land and buildings that could be converted to homes.

The announcement is tied in with a plug for the government's "Right to Contest" which allows members of the public to challenge the current use of buildings or land if they think that it is being used ineffciently or inappropriately.

The government news story says the new tool "maps" government property and says you can "see locations of public property" - but this seems to be misleading as there was no map feature available when EHN tested out the facility.  The information too is not self-explanatory.

The dataset being interrogated by the tool is presumably e-PIMS, the government's Electronic Property Information Mapping Service.  This seems to include most but not all goverment property assets: for example the User Guide [2MB .pdf file] for the Register of Surplus Public Land indicates that not all MOD land is in the register.

 

South West Empty Homes Forum - 28th October

28 Oct 2014 10:30
28 Oct 2014 16:15
Event Description: 

Sandy Park Conference Centre
Exeter, EX2 7NN
10.30am - 4.15pm
£75 + VAT per delegate

CHAIR

David Gibbens, Empty Homes Network

David will chair the day, and provide an update from the Empty Homes Network.
Currently Policy Lead for the Empty Homes Network, David Gibbens was previously Housing Enabling Manager for Exeter City Council. He was Exeter’s first Empty Homes Officer and Rough Sleepers Initiative Co-ordinator and founded the South West Empty Homes Forum, which he chaired for 12 years. He developed the EHN website and has drafted numerous briefings and other EHN documents and is a long standing member of the EHN Executive.

SPEAKERS

Adam Cliff, Peterborough City Council 

Adam will provide an overview on his background and previous experience, how this lends itself to empty homes work and his unique approach to owners, neighbours and complainants. He will also cover the overall process of working with the owners of empty properties and use case studies and EDMOs as examples in this.
Adam Cliff was awarded the Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year Award 2014, and listed as Highly Commended in 2013. Adam has a background in Property Development & Architectural Design. His skills and ingenuity have developed within the post since 2011. As part of his work in 2012/13, 116 long term empty properties were brought back into use.

Andrew Lavender, Consultant with Kent County Council

Andrew will provide an open surgery for attendees to quiz him on all aspects of empty homes and enforcement work, with an opportunity to hear his expert opinion on real case studies and examples.
Working as a trainer and consultant across many different authorities Andrew Lavender has become a leading authority on tackling empty homes, with a specialism in enforcement. Known for his role as lead consultant for the 12 authorities involved in the Kent No Use Empty initiative, Andrew is also a Director of Housing and Law Consultancy Ltd. and is professional member of the West Midlands Residential Property Tribunal.

David Stott, Graftons Property Solutions and Empty Homes Associate

David will cover the work being done by Grafton’s in the South West, including Enforced Sales Procedures. David will also provide an overview of the now closed National Empty Loans Fund, with some evaluation and discussion of lessons learned from the scheme.
David has had 30 years of experience in managing as a Head of Service and working within the Public and Private Sector, and specialises in Statue Property law and intervention. David became involved with the charity Empty Homes in 2011, and was Manager of the National Empty Homes Loan Fund, which has recently been closed.

Michael Vennard, Lloyds Banking Group

Talking from a mortgage lender’s perspective, Michael will outline the issues surrounding letting and leasing through Local Authorities, Registers Providers and Community Organisations. He will also discuss some potential solutions, as a result of joint working with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Empty Homes Network.
Michael Vennard joined Halifax in 1997, and became involved in work with mortgages in 2001. Since then, he has been involved in underwriting policy, responsible lending policy and focused on affordable housing and housing strategies. His current role includes managing the Lloyds Bank Local Lend a Hand mortgage scheme.

Francis Burton, London Borough of Croydon

Francis will cover how he built up the Croyden Empty Homes service from scratch, how he used opportunities such as the Mayor’s Empty Homes Audit and his recommendations for taking an effective approach to empty homes.
Francis Burton worked for almost 30 years in Financial Services, including self-employed specialist in mortgages for home purchases and buy-to-lets. He also ran his own successful mortgage advice centre in Croydon before coming into empty homes work.

VENUE

The forum will be held once again in the conference facilities at Sandy Park (Exeter Chiefs Rugby Club) after continuing positive feedback from previous forums.

The venue is about a 10 minute walk from the Digby & Sowton train station and is set just off the M5 at Junction 30. There are parking facilities on site for those coming by car, and there will once again be an excellent lunch.

BOOKING

The cost of the forum will be £75.00 + VAT per person,which includes a 2 course lunch, and refreshments throughout the day.

Contact details: 

To book your place, click here

If you have any queries, please contact at empty.homes@exeter.gov.uk or call 01392 265 685

Rosie Harris   
Housing Development Assistant, 01392 265865, rosie.harris@exeter.gov.uk

Landlord penalty under Proceeds of Crime Act scaled back

A landlord who was fined £1.4million under the Proceeds of Crime Act for unlawfully converting a house into an HMO and then ignoring enforcement orders requiring him to convert the house back to a single dwelling has had his penalty under the Proceeds of Crime Act cut to £544,358, according to a story published in Letting Agent Today and elsewhere.

He still faces five years in prison if he fails to make the payment.

The judges in the Court of Appeal determined that

"...[the] rents he had received prior to the enforcement notice being served, or before the time for compliance had expired, should not have been taken into account in the original judgement."

Essentially, the POCA penalties could only be invoked in relation to a criminal offence, which was the landlord's refusal to comply with the enforcement order; the unlawful planning change was not in itself a criminal offence.

The case is reported in more detail here. Our original story on this case can be found here.

Government confirms new Local Land Charge Register model

The government published an "infographic" [800kb PDF file] to highlight the nature of the transfer of Local Land Charge functions to theLand Registry, bringing the local land charge registries of 348 local authorities into a single digitised register.

Consultation on the proposal was launched in January 2014.  The government's response and the intention to proceed was first announced (also highlighting the timeline of the project) in June 2014,

Deadline for bidding for CGP underspend - 22nd August

22 Aug 2014
Event Description: 

Deadline for bidding for the underspend on the CGP.

See our news story for a little more detail on this.

  .

Contact details: 

Jennie Bryce
Project Manager, Services & Solutions

Tribal
1st Floor, 154 Great Charles Street, Queensway, Birmingham, B3 3HN
T 0121 233 7128
M 07876716393
www.tribalgroup.com

CLG seeks bids for small underspend on CGP

The Department of Communities and Local Government is offering a "very small amount" of underspend within the Communities Grant Programme (CGP) for organisations that can spend before the end of the programme on March 31st 2015.

The deadline for submission of any bids is 22nd August 2014, so the opportunity is only available to organisations that are poised and ready with projects in existing pipelines.

What is perhaps surprising is that the amount of underspend available is "very small": anecdotally there has been significant under-delivery and underspend within the CGP not vastly different  from the position within the HCA programme. Were that the case, one might have expected more underspend to become available.

There have some indications that funding allocated within the CGP that has not been spent by the profiled year-end has not been rolled forward to the following year but simply returned to the CLG main capital pot (whereas money within the HCA programme would certainly remain within the programme until March 31st 2015).  This would explain a relative lack of available underspend - money not spent on time has simply been lost to the programme. The alternative explanation is that the money has been rolled forwards but that the funded organisations are still expecting to spend their original allocations. Further enquiries will be made to CLG to try and clarify the postion.

It would seem appropriate for organisations to bid for whatever they genuiniely think they can deliver by the target date. The size of hte underspend has not been stated and presumably if bids exceed available amount they will simply be scaled down accordingly.

CLG (via Tribal Group) is inviting bids on the basis that properties can be "identified and secured" by end of October 2014. 

The letter is attached to this story for your information along with the application form.

Contact details for Tribal are as follows:

Jennie Bryce
Project Manager, Services & Solutions

Tribal
1st Floor, 154 Great Charles Street, Queensway, Birmingham, B3 3HN
T 0121 233 7128
M 07876716393
www.tribalgroup.com

Best Local Authority / Housing Association Partnership Award 2014

The third award featured in our series about the Empty Homes Awards 2014 presented at our Conference in Birmingham in May is that for Best Local Authority / Housing Association Partnership. 

This award was newly introduced in 2014 by sponsor London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, who were keen to publicise the merits of  close working between Private Registered Providers (the latest official name for housing associations) and councils.  The award was presented by Neil Pearce, Housing Strategy, Affordable Homes & Partnerships Officer for Barking and Dagenham.

The winning entry came from Amber Valley Borough Council and Futures Homescape Ltd. and the award was received by Sue Li, Empty Homes Officer,  on behalf of Amber Valley and Paul Whittingham,Head of Housing Services and Sara Mackie, Housing Advice Manager on behalf of Futures Homescape Ltd. 

(From left to right: Paul Whittingham, Sara Mackie, Sue Li, Neil Pearce.

Why they won

Whilst others have struggled with the Homes and Communities Empty Homes Programme the two organisations involved here not only met their delivery targets but exceeded them thanks to a strong partnership as described in their award submission below.

Background

Amber Valley BC and Futures Homescape have a history of working together to return empty homes to use since the council first appointed an Empty Property Officer in 2005. Futures Homescape was formed from the stock transfer process and close connections to the local authority have been retained. When many other providers were solely interested in new build, Futures Homescape committed to tackling empty properties with the authority.

Delivery

Since 2007 the partnership has returned 36 properties to use through the tenant finder service, requiring no resources other than staff time. Since this time also, the partnership has delivered 16 homes through purchase and repair/renovation; funded by s106 contributions, HCA grant and New Homes Bonus.

Naturally, when the HCA announced specific funding to tackle empty properties the partnership immediately considered how this could be achieved in Amber Valley.

In Round 1 Futures Homescape was awarded £210,000 to bring 30 properties back into use and in Round 2 £300,000 to bring 15 properties into use by 2015. In Autumn 2013, on the strength of previous performance, the partnership was invited to apply for £100,000 to tackle 5 more homes. So far, 23 have been completed, 11 will be ready for occupation imminently and a total of 63 are due for completion by the end of the programme – 13 more than originally anticipated.

This partnership has been particularly strong in delivering a scheme which has reportedly been fraught with difficulties in other areas. The model has found a niche market of converting vacant, mainly derelict commercial space, into flats. These properties have provided much needed affordable 1 and 2 bedroom accommodation, which is in high demand due to welfare reforms. Public and private sector stock across Amber Valley was initially unable to meet these demands.

This does not mean that ‘traditional’ empty homes have been ignored. On the contrary, the PSL scheme has enabled the local authority to refer owners of empty homes to the scheme. It has been of particular benefit to owners who; 1) did not appreciate the cost associated with fully renovating a home and have run out of funds; 2) owners who want no management responsibilities but want a guaranteed income; 3) owners who are interested in the long-term investment potential of a property but have no interest in renovation or management; 4) owners that live some distance from Amber Valley.

The council has also referred properties on a strategic basis, such as those being considered for an Empty Dwelling Management Order and other forms of enforcement action or where there is another strategic priority to tackle a particular individual empty home. Through joined-up negotiation and carrot and stick approach the partnership is working on strategically important and difficult empty homes.

Added Value and Opportunities

The partnership has resulted in some unexpected but welcome opportunities:

  • Word of mouth interested generated amongst some local commercial property owners to convert vacant space above high street shops
  • Additional town centre out-buildings being converted and leased to create affordable accessible bungalows for residents with mobility problems
  • Empty homes with unwanted large gardens being purchased and delivering additional new-build affordable dwellings
  • Environmental improvements to local amenities
  • Providing affordable homes in localities with little supply
  • Poor private sector landlords handing over management to a professional organisation
  • The partnership’s model being rolled out to other areas

Mechanisms for Delivery

Since transfer the two organisations have retained close ties at all levels, including Member involvement, senior management engagement, strategic consultation and delivery on the ground.

Futures Homescape are consulted in the formulation of the Council’s housing and corporate priorities and are one of the preferred partners for all forms of affordable housing delivery.

The housing strategic priorities, of which tackling empty homes is one, are developed, monitored and reassessed through the local housing authority’s Housing Implementation Group; with Futures Homescape, the Council’s Housing Strategy Officer and the Empty Property Officer being regular contributors. From this, empty property work is taken forward with regular dialogue between the Empty Property Officer and Futures Homescape’s Private Sector Housing Team.

To ensure swift delivery of empty property conversion and renovation Futures Homescape has procured preferred contractors and has an internal team of housing maintenance officers and surveyors.

Strategic, constructive dialogue, both top-down and bottom-up, with a shared vision of housing provision and adequate personnel resources provides the cornerstone for this partnership’s successful empty homes delivery. 

For further information about the partnership contact Sue Li or Paul Whittingham.

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We are grateful to Grafton UK  Ltd for sponsoring The Empty Homes Awards Ceremony 2014.