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Empty Homes Conference set for 20th May

We've now set the date for the 2015 National Empty Homes Conference, and the first speakers have already been booked. It will be held in Birmingham on Wednesday, 20th May at Maple House, our third year at this spacious and comfortable venue.

Helen Williams will be appearing to give us vital insight from her perspective as Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency; and Andrew Lavender will be offering his invaluable surgeries.

Community Grants Programme meeting details finalised

Time flies and the EHCGP comes to an end on March 31st.. As part of our efforts to make the case for more some more funding, self-help-housing.org and HACT are running two events in February , looking at what has been achieved through the DCLG’s £50m Empty Homes Community Grants Programme. One will be in London looking at the national picture, while the other will take place in Hull and will concentrate on what’s been achieved in Yorks. & Humberside and the North East and on the recent research that is ongoing.

South Tyneside forges ahead with EDMOs

A recent press release from South Tyneside Council captures the excellent work being done in the area through the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs), and is reproduced below:

More neglected properties have been given a new lease of life by South Tyneside Council.

Privately owned houses which have fallen into disrepair have been seized by the council and renovated so they can be brought back into use.

Last year, 11 properties in the St Paul’s area of Jarrow were given a facelift and are now all rented out to tenants.

Provisional New Homes Bonus figures released - empties down again

The provisional New Homes Bonus figures for 2015-16 show another 10,153 long-term empties returned to use or otherwise removed from the total recorded on the Council Tax Base returns.

The figures are accessible from the government's New Homes Bonus page and were welcomed by Stephen Williams, MP, as reported in the DCLG press release:

EHN Christmas Quiz

In the spirit of the festive season, I have cooked up EHN's first ever Christmas quiz, featuring absolutely no prizes for the first person to submit the right answers.

1. In which year did “The Great British Property Scandal” first appear on Channel 4?

A. 2010.

B. 2011.

C. 1983.

2. David Ireland was awarded what honour in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours?

A. MBE.

B. OBE.

C. BBies.

Rochdale launches loan scheme for Empty Homes Week

Loan schemes often suffer from a lack of attention to detail, leaving councils scratching their heads as to why they can't seem to give the money away.

A new scheme launched by Rochdale Council to mark Empty Homes Week is a good example of how a detailed awareness of owners' needs helps shape the product to make it attractive without at the same time squandering public money.

Revised draft of EHN policy position paper published

In response to members' comments in our online forum, a revised discussion draft of the EHN Policy Position paper has been published, downloadable from our library here.

To allow time for responses to the revised draft, the EHN Executive has accepted a revision of the deadline to 18th December 2014 with the expectation that the final version will be published at the beginning of 2015. The draft will also be discussed at our Executive meeting on Wednesday, 10th December.

EHA to launch new campaign

Campaigning charity the Empty Homes Agency is gearing up to launch its new campaign to bring down the number of empty homes. The main public launch of the campaign will be during Empty Homes Week, which runs from 1st to 5th December 2014, but emails have already been sent to council Leaders today with a view to getting local authorities to pledge support to the new initiative formally.

Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the EHA, has copied to EHN the email sent to council Leaders, which reads as follows:

Empty Homes Week 2014 - 1st December to 5th December

Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the campaigning charity Empty Homes Agency, has announced the dates for this year's Empty Homes Week - from the Monday 1st to Friday 5th December 2014.

An announcement on the Empty Homes Agency website reads

The Empty Homes Agency is encouraging all those working to bring empty homes back into use to make the most of this week to publicise the good work that they are doing and to make the case for plans to bring long-term empty homes back into being a priority both locally and nationally.

£10million more for Wales Houses to Homes scheme

The Welsh Draft Budget for 2015-16 adds yet another £10million to the Houses to Homes loans initiative, bringing the total to £30million since the inception of the scheme.

The Draft Budget notes:

Financial transactions funding of £10m in 2015-16 to expand investment in this scheme to over £30m since its launch in 2012. This successful initiative has already delivered almost 500 residential units and leveraged an additional £7.8m of private sector funding to bring empty homes in Wales back into use and increasing the supply of housing across Wales.

Office-to-residential conversions have variable impact nationwide

Research by the Local Government Association seems to indicate that the relaxation of the planning regime around conversion of offices to residential use has had a varibale impact around the country.

A significant proportion of responses highlighted the predictable negative effects such as displacement of businesses, absence of contributions to affordable housing and infrastructure. But it is a surprise that the negative responses were not higher.

Government issues guidance on definitions of empty homes and second homes

The Department of Communities and Local Government has issued a letter to clarify the definitions of empty homes and second homes. The letter, signed by Hülya Mustafa, a Deputy Director for Council Tax, seems to have been prompted by concerns about avoidance, whereby otherwise empty homes have furniture put in them specifically to avoid the Empty Homes Premium.

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