Best Local Authority / Community Housing Organisation Partnership Award 2015

This was the second year that this Partnership award has been presented at our Empty Homes Awards 2015 ceremony, (ceremony sponsored by Grafton UK Ltd). The Award was jointly sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the Empty Homes Network itself, reflecting the commitment of both organisations to fostering partnership working between local authorities and community organisations.

This year there was a clear winner: Methodist Action North West and their three partner local authorities (Preston City Council, South Ribble Borough Council and Lancaster City Council) produced a very strong submission where both the shape of the partnership and the results were clearly indicated. In fact, we are grateful to Methodist Action North West for producing a follow-up case study which is available for download as a PDF file from our Practice Library, particularly as we can't easily reproduce the rich visual information contained in the submission on this web-page.

Awards Submission

BACKGROUND

Methodist Action North West (MANW) was awarded £500,000 in 2012 and £750,000 in 2013 via the EHCGP. In delivering this programme, we have come to realise that there is no unique solution to the problem of empty homes, but there is great strength in local knowledge, local experiences, local priorities & local resources. It is essential that there is a partnership approach to the problem…..

THE PARTNERSHIP

Partnership working has enabled us to take a proactive approach to the problem, and respond in a flexible and strategic way to each property. This has enabled us to build our existing social lettings portfolio, creating high quality, affordable accommodation which will encourage long term, sustainable tenancies. As the relationship with our Local Authority partners has evolved and become established so have our other partnerships with local businesses and the local community.

Our Empty Homes Programme set quite onerous targets, both numerically and geographically – working across three key local authority areas in the North West:

  • Preston City Council
  • Lancaster City Council (including Morecombe)
  • South Ribble Borough Council

THE PROJECT

MANW is a charity that provides support, assistance and accommodation to people in housing need. The Preston based charity delivers services across the North West. A Place to Live (APTL) is a Social Lettings Agency within the charity, set up with the sole aim of helping people in housing need who have come up against barriers when following traditional housing routes.

MANW secured the funding from the DCLG to help bring Empty properties back into use through a ‘One Stop Shop’ solution. Each property refurbishment was managed by the Empty Homes team who on completion passed the property over to the APTL team to manage for an agreed period of time. APTL offers a managed service and is the main point of contact for landlord and tenant. APTL manages the property on behalf of the owner and then sets up an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement with the tenants who will live in the property.

The Empty Homes programme managed to target the whole array of empty property examples, including houses, flats, flat conversions, flats over retail shops and conversion of retail & commercial buildings.

THE PROCESS

Collaboration extended to every stage of the process, allowing the actual number of staff working on the project to be kept to a minimum. one key person per organisation. This was very much a cyclical process where resources were shared. In the diagram below MANW is red and the Local Authority is blue.

Communication was paramount, which included quarterly whole team strategic meetings & regular individual area project site meetings.

THE GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT - A REGENERATION PROJECT IN PRESTON

The conversion of a former pub, outbuildings, hall, funeral directors & garage to create 24 new homes for affordable rent and regenerate a site close to the City Centre.

  • 4 x 1 bed & 3 x 2 bed flats
  • 2 x 1 bed & 15 x 2 bed houses
  • 9 years empty
  • £212,000 empty homes contribution
  • £359,000 owner contribution
  • LHA affordable rental rate

THE LEGACY

It is only through partnership working did we achieve an over delivery on the numbers of properties/bedroom spaces predicted at the start of the project. In addition to this we were able to provide very good value for money – with overall project costs over 40% less than the DCLG National Average maximum. We relied only on the DCLG funding and private owner investment, with some LA grants to realise a project – we did not use additional loan funding.

There were also the added benefits for our programme, this provided another aspect to partnership working - environmental improvements & community benefits; £706,260 of private investment into the local economy; and employment opportunities for local businesses. Our key legacy though will provide a home for between 223 and 413 people across the three areas, people who would otherwise be without an affordable place to live.

The partnership continues to work together towards securing further funding and projects as part of our joint exit strategy from the programme. A number of new, and creative, initiatives are under discussion with the expectation that the momentum achieved with this programme will not be lost, but developed and sustained into the future.

The Award Presentation

From left: Jon Fitzmaurice (self-help-housing.org), Alex Starritt (Preston CC), Diane Lund (Preston CC), Stephen Hetherington (Methodist Action, NW), Pradip Patel (South Ribble BC), David Clare (Habitat for Humanity Homes) and Nick Pritchard-Gordon (Reading BC and Chair of EHN)

Contact details for Award Winners and Sponsors

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