Back in use data

I have been dealing with an owner of a row of 12 derelict houses. Eventually the owners got planning permission to demolish and create 128 units ( a mixture of affordable and social housing).

My question is would you count the 128 units as they became occupied in your stats or just the 12 that had been demolished?

Forums: 
Conference 2016

I've treated this sorts of cases as 12 LTE returned to use with a net increase of 116 units created. If your interventions are so significant that you can claim responsibility for the transformation of the site from 12 unused units to a mixed-tenure development with AH on it, you should be cherished by your Council. The NHB associated with this case is good news in itself, never mind the socio-economic benefits that are delivered. Award your self a nice cup of tea and a rocky bar.

Nick P-G
Reading BC
01189373091

Hi Joyce

This has always been a contentious issue and there is no perfect answer.

It is understandable that empty homes practitioners want to claim as much success for their work as possible when it comes to the provision of housing. But whatever approach is taken, there can be huge and unreasonable distortions if we are not careful. For example, in any major city, significant developments may take place on the site of existing buildings. This is "normal" redevelopment. The buildings thus redeveloped may or may not contain one or more residential units. The footprint of the new building(s) may or may not correspond to the footprint of the old building(s).

Our Guidelines involved a significant amount of work canvassing the views of our members, have been agreed by the Executive, and represent the only agreed standard for monitoring the work of practitioners. Therefore I would strongly recommend that you follow them although you may find the approach disappointing in this particular case!

The Guidelines distinguish between various categories of successful outcome, one of which is "demolition" (perhaps contentiously in the context of the HMII story - though other considerations come into play which might affect the counting in those cases). In  this case, as 12 dwellings have been demolished those are the successes you could, in principle, count, assuming you (the authority) has been directly involved in the process for example via compulsory purchase or via sale of your own dwellings to a third party.

As regards new dwellings on the site of demolished dwellings, the Guidelines are unambiguous: Point 7 states:

New dwellings built on the site of demolished buildings fall outside this monitoring framework.

The trials and tribulations of regeneration

This is not the end of the story either. Although regeneration by local authorities, including demolitions, is a worthy endeavour, it is also the case that in some cases the approach of local authorities has been seriously flawed: homes have been bought and left to stand empty for years, often unnecessarily. Imaginative alternatives and possiblities have been ignored.  To claim "success", even in the form of demolition, in such circumstances would seem a travesty and would undermine our credibility as professionals whose main job is to seek to return empty homes to productive use.  Our Guidelines in those circumstances may not be as specific as they need to be. But they do encompass the possiblity of "unreasonable delay" by the local authority and again a cautious approach should be adopted.

The preceding comments are amplified in points (8) and (9) of Annex A - Rationale. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, it's necessary to state that the relatively conservative critieria in our Guidelines will never prevent local authority empty homes practitioners, doing a creditable job, to claim the success they deserve. The Guidelines only prevent such practitioners from claiming successes that would, by the common sense standards of the public they serve, inflate the numbers unreasonably. They were introduced in part to combat manipulation of figures that we knew to be happening. A practitoner following the Guidelines can go home in the knowledge that he or she has acted as a true professional, telling it like it is, rather than playing some sick game dreamed up by uncommitted, feeble-minded tiers of management. 

And as Nick indicates, there are plenty of other opportunities to highlight the benefit of what practitioners do outside formal statistical returns.