As of 17th July 2015, the London Borough of Islington has introduced an innovative new planning policy aimed at tackling the so-called "buy-to-leave" phenomenon. Islington's approach relies on a Supplementary Planning Document entitled "Preventing Wasted Housing Supply". This will require developers to sign a "Section 106" agreement [S106] aimed at ensuring that homes are occupied after they are completed: effectively the agreement cascades down to individual owners as the S106 obligations run with the land as a land charge.
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It is with deep sadness that I must inform you of the death of Dominic Gordon earlier this month.
Tameside Council has recently completed a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) in collaboration with the University of Salford. The KTP set out to explore the reasons for empty ownership in the borough. Instead of concentrating exclusively on the physical and geographical nature of the empty homes , our research attempted, where possible, to focus on this social phenomenon from the perspective of the empty home owner.
Despite the cuts, the Empty Homes Conference 2015 was the biggest of any of the events organised by the Empty Homes Network to date, with nearly 120 delegates attending from all parts of the UK, from Scotland to Cornwall to Kent to Wales.
An analysis of seven party manifestos reveals little to get excited about when it comes to proposals for tackling empty homes.
Empty Homes Agency Chief Executive Helen Williams is pushing Parliamentary candidates in England to commit to doing more about empty homes in the runup to the General Election on May 7th.
Candidates from all the main parties have been sent emails which EHA says "has prompted a good deal of interest, pledges and tweets across the political spectrum."
Email to prospective parliamentary candidates:
Empty Homes Agency campaign to reduce long-term empty homes
Research commissioned by Callcredit Information Group reveals that there is a strong preference for retaining empty homes and regeneration rather than replacing them with new homes.
The research was conducted online by Yougov on 9th-10th April and involved 1,782 adults, with figures weighted to be representative of all UK adults. Callcredit sell their data so we have not been able to analyse it any further than the information provided in their press release, which can be found here.
A Yougov poll on behalf of the Homeowners Alliance shows that the second most popular housing policy, amongst those currently put forward by the major parties leading up to the election, is Labour's policy to allow councils to charge more council tax on empty homes.
Empty Homes Awards 2015 open for entries
We'd love to get your submissions for these awards - by midnight, Wednesday, 29th April please. Submissions should be clear and to the point and no more than two sides of A4 or the equivalent in an email, per award.
Liverpool City Council's Cabinet Committee is to consider a major expansion of the "Homes For A Pound" scheme at its meeting on April 2nd, to be dubbed "Homes For A Pound Plus".
Over the last few months, at meetings or via the website, EHN members have been alerted to the possible risks to New Homes Bonus implied by the government's desire to introduce a "development benefit" that would offer financial rewards to people living near new housing developments.
We are pleased to announce that the Kent No Use Empty Initiative has become a Gold Supporter for the National Empty Homes Conference organised by the Empty Homes Network for 20th May 2015 in Birmingham.
The Kent initiative has established a fantastic track record on delivery and aspects of its model have now been exported to Wales and to the West of England partnership of four authorities around Bristol. Support from No Use Empty represents a big vote of confidence in our Conference.
There have been a fair few stories over the last two or three weeks about significant numbers of empty homes in Durham mining villages near Easington which demonstrate that the issues associated with "low demand" - and the search for solutions - are still very much alive.
In the news stories it is Horden in particular which has been singled out, with a claimed 130 empty homes owned by Accent housing association now slated for disposal and reportedly another 130 to follow.
A report commissioned by Canopy Housing Project in Leeds and published early in 2014 shows the benefits that self-help housing can bring to a range of different stakeholders.
Written by Andy Bagley (Real-Improvements consultancy), this is a first-stage, preliminary report on the Social Return on Investment (SROI) provided by Canopy's project to bring empty homes back into use, a project which also draws in volunteers, provides homes, and helps people into training and work.
The Empty Homes Network is pleased to be able to offer its first online Practitioner Guide. The new Guide to Enforced Sale has been written by Chris Skinner.
Chris, a solicitor at Norfolk County Council's shared legal services nplaw, is known for his work on enforced sales and compulsory purchase orders and will be speaking at our May 20th Conference.
A recent court High Court ruling clarifies the position regarding the rules around Council Tax Exemption Class "B" and suggests that it will be very easy for charitable housing assocations or other charitable bodies to benefit from the exemption, regardless of the rent charged in most cases.
For the record, Exemption Class "B" reads as follows:
"a dwelling owned by a body established for charitable purposes only, which is unoccupied and has been so for a period of less than 6 months and was last occupied in furtherance of the objects of the charity"
The Scottish government has launched a new £4million fund to help address empty homes and commercial properties in town centres. The funding can be used to bring long-term empty homes back into use or to convert redundant commercial properties into housing. As with the predecessor scheme, the Scottish Empty Homes Loan Fund, the homes produced must be affordable.
There is little detail available about the Town Centre Empty Homes Fund at the moment. The press release states simply that it
[The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not those of the Empty Homes Network]
It's back to the drawing board for the powers that be in Liverpool following Eric Pickles' decision to over-rule his Planning Inspector and refuse the CPO and planning permission that would have allowed the redevelopment of the "Welsh Streets" to go ahead.
The Scottish government has provided a massive boost to the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, both extending the funding for a further 3 years and expanding the available resource by a further 1.5 posts.
Scottish Housing Minister Margaret Burgess announced the move on 23rd December. The story published on the Scottish Goverment website describes the initiative in more detail:
The Scottish Empty Homes Partnership (SEHP) will receive a three year extension backed by an additional £616,500 from the Scottish Government.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has offered £10million under his Housing Covenant to Big Issue Invest (BII) who will in turn lend the money on to social businesses that can produce affordable homes out of empty propertiy.
The story on the Big Issue Invest website sums up the initiative as follows: