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".
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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:
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.
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.
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.
Left-leaning think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research is pushing for local authorities to be given more flexibility about how and when they charge the Empty Homes Premium. Key flexibilities being proposed include:
It's no surprise, but the Labour Party has now stated officially that it will abandon the New Homes Bonus if it gets elected at the 2015 general election.
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.
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?
2. David Ireland was awarded what honour in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours?
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.
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.