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.
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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:
A previous ‘state of the nation’ article reviewed the situation with English local authority empty homes staff, based on a Freedom of Information request sent out by the Network over the Autumn. In today’s article we explore the wider context in which practitioners are operating.
As the dust starts to settle after Empty Homes Week, it is time to take stock of where the empty homes world has arrived, in the closing months of 2016. To throw some light on the current picture, the Empty Homes Network conducted a survey over the Autumn to find out what staff were employed in addressing the issue of private sector empty homes in each local authority area within England.
Jon Fitzmaurice OBE, Director of self-help-housing.org, has called for a new round of funding for community housing organisations, building on the success of the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme 2012-15.
A press release was issued on Tuesday, 29th November, as part of Empty Homes Week and reads as follows:
Call For Another Empty Homes Community Grants Programme To Bring Empty Properties Back Into Use To Meet Housing Need
The charity Empty Homes has advertised for a new Chair of its Board and for new trustees. The details are available from the Empty Homes website here.
In its letter to candidates for the Chair position, the Charity notes:
Charity Empty Homes has launched Empty Homes Week by announcing the results of a poll that show a strong desire amongst the public for the goverment to do more about the issue of empty homes.
The Press Release reads as follows:
Strong public support for the Government to place a greater priority on tackling empty homes
The Chancellor's Autumn statement offered £1.4billion of additional funding for affordable housing and, importantly, removed the restrictions on tenure which had diverted nearly all the capital budget to home ownership. These changes allow some room for hope that empty homes bids might get funded, although a lack of appetite amongst housing associations and perceived issues around value-for-money may still prove major impediments.
The Empty Homes Network has now submitted its evidence to the National Housing Taskforce set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Housing and Planning. The final documents were sent to Lord Richard Best, Chair of the workstream associated with empty homes, Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who were providing the secretariat for the workstream.