Community Housing Organisations around England are calling for a further £52m from the Government, over the next three years, to bring more empty properties back into use.
The call for more financial assistance follows on from a survey conducted by self-help-housing.org with support from the Housing Associations Charitable Trust (HACT). The survey asked recipients of grant under the Community Grants Programme to indicate how much money they were confident in being able to spend based on their previous experience and current opportunities. The survey achieved a 73% completion rate and shows a strong appetite for more funding.
Community Grants Programme
The government's Community Grants Programme had enabled small community-led organisatons to access the £150million allocated to delivering affordable housing via bringing empty homes back into use. Desipte some highly successful projects, no continuating funding has been offered. The only option currently available is for community housing organisations to team up with Registered Providers (should any be interested). The RPs could access the main 2015-18 affordable housing programme and the community-led organisations could operate as their agents in various shapes and forms.
EHN supports community housing approach
The Empty Homes Network has previously written to Stephen Williams MP, the Minister with responsibiity for the empty homes agenda, asking that at the very least the underspend from the existing programmes (introduced only after considerable delay) should be rolled forward.This suggestion has been refused. (See story here).
Partnerships between community-led housing organisations and Registerd Providers may be valuable in their place but to insist on them as a precondition for funding is all too indicative of a mindless technocracy that is disengaged from reality on the ground. The predictable outcome, already apparent from the outcome of the first bidding round for 2015-18 funding via the HCA, is that many excellent schemes and projects that the commuinity organisations have shown themselves capable of producing will not now be delivered.
The discontinuation of the Community Grants Programme is a kick in the teeth for the "Big Society" and the call for £52million of funding to reinstate it is entirely justified, delivering nbot just vital housing but also economic and social benefits that the community groups are particularly geared to producing.
Our own draft policy paper makes it clear that funding should be readily available for whoever is most capable of delivering the empty homes agenda. We think it essential that there are bespoke funding opportunities that match the scale and capability of community-led organisatoins.