Monday, July 05, 2010

This could really make things better

It doesn’t happen that often, but there are moments when it is possible to really change things for the better. In amongst the bleak public spending news, it may surprise you to hear that one such moment is upon us. Before the politicians go home for the summer we are calling on the government to say what it is going to do to fulfil its commitment on empty homes. And we’re asking you to say what you think too.
In May the coalition government said "We will explore a range of measures to bring empty homes into use."
We know that the work is underway. Officials are exploring measures now. What they conclude and what the government decides will either be the most significant moment for years, or a squandered opportunity for helping create homes out of empty property. Of course we want it to be the former. In a dream scenario here’s what could happen:

  • The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) changes grant rules giving housing associations a real incentive to buy and refurbish empty homes. 
  • The government confirms funding, and for the first time in years housing associations en-masse start purchase and repair and rehab schemes creating new affordable homes out of empty property.
  • The HCA gives greater flexibility so that homelessness charities and other community groups can refurbish empty homes too. Hundreds of new not-for- profit schemes start
  • The Government helps local authorities to act by rewarding them for getting long-term empty homes returned to use. Councils start realising the true value of reusing vacant homes and increase the help they offer to property owners.
  • The Government and public sector landlords open up their records on vacant property and agree to transfer their own surplus vacant properties to local communities for them to bring back into use. They give powers to the public to force the sale where the public sector drags its feet.
These actions would make a stunning difference enabling new homes to spring up out of empty buildings. It’s achievable and it’s affordable. But we need the government to act.
Next week you can have your say. The HCA debate “how do we maximise the use of empty homes?” starts on 12th July. Please take part. Watch the videos, and leave your comments and ideas here. It could really help make things better.


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