5th May 2015
A third of British streets are blighted by empty homes with Liverpool, Glasgow and Sheffield the cities worst affected.
According to research from Nationwide Building Society, almost a third of people have a property in their street that has been unoccupied for six months or more.
As well as the fact empty properties are a waste of valuable living space at a time when affordable housing is out of reach for many, they often fall into disrepair, tainting neighbouring homes and sometimes bringing down their value.
Government funding to bring empty homes back into use through the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme (EHCGP) has now ended. With no plans to renew funding, many of the charitable community organisations focussed on bringing empty homes back into use are now facing an uncertain future.
Nationwide, together with the Nationwide Foundation – the independent charity funded by the Society – believes this could halt the positive progress already made by these organisations, and so is calling for renewed government funding.
At an estimated average cost of around £25,000, bringing an empty home back into is a fraction of the price of building a new home. Funding from the EHCGP has helped charitable community groups bring almost 2,000 homes back into use so far.
More than 2,000 UK residents were asked to indicate if they were aware of a house that had been empty in their street for more than six months. The national poll highlighted that almost a third of people (29.78%) have an empty property in their street that has been unoccupied for six months or more.
|Cities with most empty homes||Cities with fewest empty homes|
The Nationwide Foundation – the independent charity funded by the Society – has provided grants to organisations bringing empty properties back into use as decent, affordable homes for people in need since 2013. Its approach of working closely with those organisations it funds has provided considerable insight into the wider benefits – beyond simply providing decent homes – this type of empty property regeneration delivers.
Chris Rhodes, Nationwide’s retail director says: “In simple terms, if this vital government funding is not renewed, many community housing projects could be severely impacted and, as a result, the number of empty homes being brought back into use would drastically decrease.
“As an organisation that has pledged to help 750,000 people into a home of their own by 2017, Nationwide is passionate about enabling people to access affordable, quality housing. The DCLG funding has enabled properties to be brought back into use for a fraction of the cost of building a new home – making financial, as well as common sense.
“Bringing empty homes back into use can transform whole communities, and in some cases even provide work or skills training opportunities.”
As a result, Nationwide has written to MPs from across the political spectrum to both endorse the wide-ranging results of the previous DCLG funding, and to encourage them to lobby their own parties to ensure that new funding is made quickly available, whatever the election result.
Leigh Pearce, Nationwide Foundation’s chief executive adds: “It is absurd that so many properties remain empty and decaying, while at the same time we have a housing supply crisis, with many people unable to find anywhere to live that they can afford. More government funding into empty homes is desperately needed to capitalise on the momentum and expertise which has built up over the last few years. We have worked alongside organisations which are bringing properties back into use as decent, affordable homes and know the immense benefits this regeneration brings, not only to the new residents, but also to the neighbourhoods and to the individuals who gain skills working on these homes.”
Steve Hoey, director of Canopy Housing, a self-help organisation based in Leeds, said: “The Empty Homes Community Grant Programme was a massive boost to Canopy Housing in Leeds. We have partnered with other social enterprises in Leeds to bring 46 long-term empty properties back into use as decent affordable homes, over three years. The EHCGP funding meant we created eight jobs – doubling our staff team – and acquired assets which have improved our balance sheet and sustainability tenfold.
“Now, however, with the prospect of no further funding from this programme, much of the capacity and experience we have accrued will be lost, as our staff team will have to shrink and we are unable to purchase further properties.”