First of all a big thank you to everybody who has contributed to the empty homes debate on the Homes and Communities Agency website. There are now over 100 comments from people involved or affected, it’s still open for comments until the end of the month.
I’m really inspired by some of the ideas here Jim Overbury’s Private EDMO idea. Using the process, but not the force of the EDMO legislation to get homes into use with the owner’s agreement. Emma Edghill’s idea about working with the YMCA to find homeless people who can work on renovating vacant properties. Gary Kirk’s ideas around local authorities pooling resources. But there are a lot of requests from local authorities here that could be summarised as “give us more money”. One contributor was even as bold as to say he wanted cash cash cash!
Away form this debate I’ve also been approached by a number of people asking that we lobby the government for more money for local authorities. I will certainly campaign for good ideas to be properly financed but I’m afraid I won’t be lobbying for cash cash cash. Here’s why:
The coalition has made it quite clear that its major priority is deficit reduction. There is going to be less not more money. Arguing for the opposite is pointless.
I have seen many many empty homes innitatives and if there is a relationship between effectiveness and resources it is that those with least money do best. Some of the best-resourced initiatives I have seen have been jaw droppingly wasteful.
The factor that is most commonly associated with success is not resources but resourcefulness. I am thinking of Jenny Wood from Harrogate council going round to young building apprentices and kicking them out of bed in the morning to get them on site renovating empty homes. I am thinking of Liz Daykin in South Derbyshire advertising empty properties on her council website as a free estate agency service to help owners sell properties that estate agents didn’t want.
These actions weren’t dependent on large amounts of money, but they took imitative and an understanding of what the problem was that needed fixing. We need more of that, and where there are ideas and where there is success I will be more than happy to argue for them to be properly funded.