Homes from empty homes

“Of England’s 710,000 empty homes nearly half of them are long-term empty. That’s enough homes to house a million people. Whilst some homes are empty for transactional reasons (e.g they are being refurbished, are for sale or to let) the rest are to some extent stuck. A significant minority of them have been totally abandoned.”

image: emptyhomes.com

image: emptyhomes.com

Empty Homes believes that with unprecedented housing need, and unfolding environmental crises, the waste of empty homes cannot be allowed to continue.

So, how many empty houses do you think there are in the East Midlands? Read on…

According to council tax records, in 2012, about 3% – which is about 64,000 of the nearly 2 million houses in the area. Of these, about 24,000 are thought to be ‘long term’ empty – which is 6 months or more. There are roughly 3000 homeless families in the East Midlands (link), though my understanding of these statistics are that these figures are only those who have sought statutory help (ie official council channels). Silver lining though, at least it seems this figure has dropped about a half over the last 10 years. (edit – Shelter says there are around 5,000 empty dwellings in Leicester and about 8,000 in Leicestershire. We’ll do another post about Shelter in future, they have some excellent research and stats)

Anyway, Homes from empty homes is an independant charity and campaign to draw attention to, and actively get empty homes and other properties back into use. You may have seen a documentary on the subject presented by George Clark “The Great British Property Scandal” aired on Channel 4 in 2011 and 2012. Their website has everything you’d need to know about empty homes from an individual or a developers point of view. A really useful resource all around.

You may also have heard about the ‘Houses for 1 pound’ schemes run by Liverpool (link) and Stoke council (link). There are a variety of fairly reasonable strings attached: ie, the renovation work is likely to cost 30-40k, you can’t let it out, you may only have partial ownership with a right to buy later and so on. The schemes in both cities saw around a thousand applications each for 20ish in Liverpool and 30ish in Stoke.

What can be done about it? Some of the groups suggestions include:

A community right to reclaim: Properties left empty for two or more years would (after a substantial process of checking and planning) be legally made available to community groups, housing associations or private owners. At the moment (as far as my non-lawyer eyes can tell), it seems similar powers do exist but only regarding empty land or public buildings.

– Presenter (and architect) George Clark gave a 12 point set of reccomendations to government that you can read here.

A pledge to bring 365 empty homes back into use in 2013. Various design firms, charities, co-ops and others have pledged their time and resources towards this aim.

There is an Empty Homes Team with Leicester City Council (link)

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