Thursday, June 26, 2008

Copper theft from empty homes

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for recycling metals; especially copper. Smelting copper from its raw state requires a horrific amount of energy, more than any other metal. Copper ore it seems is only to be found in beautiful remote parts of Chile, Peru, and Zambia that I’d rather weren’t torn to pieces with open cast mining operations. If that weren’t enough it’s running out anyway This guy reckons there’s only 26 years worth left. So with China’s economic boom demanding huge supplies of the stuff it’s little surprise that it’s trading at record prices; $8,500 a tonne, earlier this month. I was not shocked to hear that the only person with enough money to pay £40 million for a Monet this week was a copper dealer. What’s this got to do with empty homes? Well it seems that, abandoned homes have become the easiest place for the less scrupulous dealers to source the metal. This story is just one of many reporting the problem in the United States, and I’ve heard of cases in the UK too. What this of course does is hugely bump up the costs of refurbishing the property and store up future demand for the metal when all the stolen pipes need to be replaced when the property market turns up again. The moral of the story for property owners is surely don’t allow your property to become empty. Accepting a lower rent may be hard to swallow, but the alternative could be a lot more expensive.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Empty Homes spread West Nile Virus

For years I have been talking about the harmful effects that empty homes have on communities, but I have never thought of this one before. Happily for us West Nile Virus has never been identified in the UK, and in any case I doubt that many empty homes here have swimming pools. If I’m wrong perhaps we will need to start breeding Pac-man fish!

Monday, June 02, 2008


If I was going to choose a media outlet for the virtues of short life housing co-ops The John Gaunt show on Talk Sport radio probably wasn’t it. But that was what I tried to do this week. John Gaunt or “Gaunty” as I was invited to call to him, was, it turns out, not particularly interested in the merits of housing cooperatives. He was rather more exercised by this article in the Daily Mail. “You” he barked “know nothing. Why can’t I buy as many homes as I want and leave them empty without busy bodies like you telling me what to do?”
“You can do what ever you want “ I suggested “ but there are consequences to what you do, leaving a property empty has effects on neighboring property and frankly is a pretty poor business model for investment”
“Consequences!” He yelled “you said consequences, you’re threatening me!” “This is a free country I’ll do whatever I like without communists like you telling me what I can and can’t do!”

I must confess to not being a regular listener to Gaunty’s previous broadcasts. If I had I might have realsied that his particular style was not one for exploring subtleties and weighted arguments.

I checked out the Daily Mail story and found it to be true, at least in the case of Camden. There is a link to the Squatters Advisory Service on their website, and they have been brave enough not to cave in and take it down. I can’t say I feel quite as outraged by this as The Daily Mail, their readers or “Gaunty” It is after all an option open to people looking for housing, even if it is one with rather one-sided benefits.
What does worry me however, is that Camden, like most councils, offer a list of options which are heavy on social housing and very light on any form of self help for people in housing need.

Housing Coops and property guardian companies provide short-term housing out of property that is temporarily empty. They offer an alternative form of housing that does make use of empty property, provide benefits for the owner and provides homes for those in housing need without creating a dependency for social housing. I can’t understand why it is not more widely promoted by councils. Even “Guanty” as he cut me off muttered, “actually I agree with him”