With the election only a few days away and all the manifestos now published, this is a good time for a brief look at policy proposals connected to bringing empty property back into use for housing.
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Delegates to the 2017 Empty Homes Conference, held in Birmingham last week, gave it an average rating of 4.73 out of 5, making it the highest-scoring such event held to date.
A strong line-up of speakers was undoubtedly a big factor. Among the most popular sessions was that presented by Kerry Morgan-Gould (pictured right) and Vicki Green, of Ashfords Solicitors, about dealing with dificult Probate cases. But that was just one example from among many.
A very successful and well-attended Empty Homes Conference on Wednesday in Birmingham contained one poignant moment, when the delegates showed their appreciation for Chris Skinner, who sadly died in February, by offering a collective salute.
Chris was well-known for his work as a solicitor supporting Empty Homes practitioners up and down the country over many years, particularly in the area of Compulsory Purchase. He had also spoken at two previous conferences.
Destin Solutions Ltd. is seeking to help local authorities maximise NHB by partnering with a local authority empty homes team or practitioner to pilot new approaches to data cleansing of the 2017 CTB return.
Cromwood Social has stepped in to sponsor the Empty Homes Award for Best Before-and-After Photo, which is a new award category this year. Details of the Award Category can be found in our news story here.
We were contacted yesterday by Cromwood's Abdus Saleh with the offer of sponsorship, which we were happy to accept. Cromwood Social is also going to provide Silver Supporter sponsorship.
Shelter Scotland has issued a Local Government Manifesto for Homes - part of their 'Homelessness - Far from Fixed' campaign - which calls for every local authority to employ a dedicated Empty Homes Officer.
The manifesto is aimed at the local government elections and is part of a campaign to get candidates to sign up to four commitments.
Commitment 1, 'Deliver a home for everyone in Scotland', includes 3 action points:
We are looking for submissions for two more categories in the Empty Homes Awards 2017. These are new categories which are being sponsored by the Empty Homes Network itself this year.
Best before-and-after photos
This Award is now being sponsored by Cromwood Social which is a part of the Cromwood Group.
Whilst the Conservative goverment at Westminster removed empty homes from the policy landscape in the wake of the 2015 General Election (following the complete absence of the issue from the Tory election manifesto) the issue is alive and kicking amongst Scottish Conservatives. Partly no doubt thanks to Shelter Scotland's successful Empty Homes Partnership, there seems to be a a broad-based, cross-party consensus about the need for central (in this case, Scottish) government to play its part.
Every year, at the National Empty Homes Conference, we present awards to recognise excellence in empty homes work. One of the most coveted awards is that for Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year.
We are proud that this year's award is sponsored by Kent's No Use Empty partnership, led by Kent County Council.
Preparations are well in hand for the national Empty Homes Conference to be held in Birmingham on Wednesday 24th May.
A strong line-up has just been boosted by news that Martin Yardley, Chief Executive of Coventry City Council, is going speak - the programme will be amended shortly.
Christopher Frank Skinner
Chris Skinner died on 14 February on his 59th birthday at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, close to his home in Hethersett.
Chris had been in hospital since late December suffering from Guillain Barré syndrome and his sudden death was as a result of complications.
Abdus Saleh, once of London Rebuilding Society and now Empty Homes Manager at Cromwood Housing plc, has provided the following information about a funding package that can help local authorities and other social housing providers bring empties back into use.
Funding: key details
£2m from a social bank to bring back into use empty properties for the use of social housing. Typical nomination terms to the council will be 5-10 years or something bespoke but a minimum of 5 years.
The Housing and Planning Act 2016 introduced a number of small changes to compulsory purchase procedures, which have little impact in relation to the compulsory acquisition of empty homes. There were, however, two provisions which are of greater note. One allows the Secretary of State to delegate to an inspector the decision whether or not to confirm a contested CPO. The other provides for the Secretary of State to specify time limits for making decisions on contested CPOs.
The Housing White Paper will be the subject of extensive comment in the housing press and national newspapers and this is not the place for a comprehensive treatment. Probably, the consensus amongst housing and planning professionals will be that the proposals outlined in the White Paper lack bite and will therefore have no significant impact on the housing market.
News stories in the Bristol Post have been reporting a potentially landmark case, the outcome of which hinges on whether Property Guardians are licensees or tenants. The guardian in this case is resisting an eviction order on the basis that the guardians each have a lockable room and therefore have exclusive possession, regardless of what the occupation agreement might say. Camelot is relying in part on the 'licence agreement' to assert that the occupants are licensees.
An alert has been issued by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau's Proactive Intelligence Team highlighted the issue of fraud associated with empty homes where owners have died. Criminal gangs are referring to obituaries and then carrying out careful research to identify homes that they might be able to raise loan finance against. The exact mechanisms are not explained, for obvious reasons.
Empty properties set to be transformed
Three properties in Carr Vale near Bolsover are set to be brought back into use thanks to a partnership between the landlord, Bolsover District Council and Action Housing.
The properties, which are located on Main Street, have been empty for over a year, but with the agreement of the landlord, they have been passed to Action Housing on a 14 year lease that will see them transformed into 6 affordable dwellings.
We have analysed the provisional NHB allocations for 2017-18 to try and gauge the impact of the changes in the NHB regime. To do this we have combined the provisional allocations table with more detailed data extracted from the current year's NHB calculator. The results are contained in an analysis that you can find in our Information Library here. This is for Full Members only so you will need to be logged in to access it.
The key things to remember when getting to grips with the figures are:
The government has announced the results of its consultation into the New Homes Bonus - and it means that a number of authorities will no longer receive NHB at all, particularly those in areas of low demand. In addition, the Bonus will be scaled back from the current 6 years to 4 years.
The full details can be found via our Information Library, but in summary, the key points in the government's response of relevance to empty homes practitioners are as follows: