Communities Minister Don Foster today announced that towns across England will benefit from £91 million to refurbish and bring back into use over 6,000 empty and derelict homes and commercial premises, particularly in the Midlands and North where the problem is most acute.
The funding will be spent on refurbishment in areas where empty properties have commonly led to problems such as squatting, rat infestation and collapsing house prices, driving remaining residents away.
Success so far but government is going further still
Speaking today Mr Foster said:
The government is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of empty homes and urban blight. Today I’m announcing we’re going to do even more, with towns across England benefiting from £91 million to refurbish over 6,000 empty properties to get them back into use. This will bring people, shops and jobs back to once abandoned areas, and provide extra affordable homes we so badly need.
We have already made very good progress, cutting the number of long term empty homes by 40,000 but with thousands of people in this country desperate to buy a home and areas still suffering problems of urban blight we must go further still.
The funding is being allocated under two programmes:
£61 million from the second round of the empty homes funding programme, provided to successful bidders eligible from all areas across England (except London, which will be announced separately) with empty homes. Around two thirds of this (£41 million) is allocated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to registered social landlords; and the remaining money to community and voluntary groups. Together the 187 successful organisations will bring around 3,200 extra homes back into use.
£30 million second year award of Clusters of Empty Homes programme funding for twenty partnerships in areas of acute problems such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Middlesbrough which will bring around 3,500 homes back into use.
Andy Rose, HCA chief executive, said:
We had a very encouraging response to the funding across a wide range of types of property. This demonstrates a strong appetite and scope for bringing empty homes and properties back into use, which will help to reinvigorate our communities and towns. We look forward to working with housing providers to bring these homes forward.
See details of the areas to receive funding under the Empty Homes Round Two funding
Details of the Empty Property Community Grants programme will be added to the Tribal Education website in the coming few days. Alternatively you can download the list of grant awards here:
Visiting an empty homes refurbishment project today in Stoke on Trent - a former Housing Market Renewal ‘Pathfinder’ area - Don Foster said:
A very significant amount of this money will benefit the Midlands and North, including towns that saw whole areas become abandoned and ‘no go’ by the previous government’s Pathfinder programme of demolitions that we have put a stop to.
£33 million of the empty homes programme funding will go to the North of England, with a further £11 million for the Midlands.
Ten point plan for regeneration
Don Foster has also called on councils to sign up to TV presenter and restoration expert George Clarke’s ten point review for housing regeneration areas. The review supports ‘sweat equity schemes’, such as the one in Stoke Don Foster visited today, whereby people buy empty properties for a nominal price in exchange for an undertaking to refurbish them. The review also backs the government’s stance that demolition of properties should only ever be a last resort.
The government has already invested £130 million to refurbish up to 11,500 empty homes since 2010. This includes £100 million to bring empty property back as affordable housing, and the first ‘clusters of empty homes’ programme investment of £30 million.
In addition New Homes Bonus, under which government matches council tax income on new build or empty homes brought back into use, has supported over 50,000 empty homes being refurbished for people and families to live in and rewarded councils with £59 million. Councils now also have the power to charge owners 150% council tax rate for properties left empty for more than six months, using the money to keep down council tax for ordinary families.
A further announcement on funding for London under the second round of the empty homes programme will be made soon.
George Clarke review: recommendations for housing regeneration areas
- Refurbishing and upgrading existing homes should be the first and preferred option rather than demolition. Full engagement with the community is required for any existing homes regeneration programme. The local community and stakeholder should be able to make informed decisions about the future of their homes and areas and consultation with them should be clear, open and unbiased. Demolition of existing homes should be the last option after all forms of market testing and options for refurbishment are exhausted.
- If, following an open and transparent community consultation process and after rigorous market testing for refurbishment, demolition is still the preferred choice of the community then tenants/owners should be offered ‘like for like’ properties. Temporary accommodation should be a last resort. Where possible, people should be offered the choice to move to accommodation more suited to their needs.
- If owners/tenants are moved to a new property they should suffer no net financial loss beyond what they would expect as a reasonable increase if they remained in their existing home and in line with inflation.
- Areas should not be systematically ‘wound down’ which is a process that destroys communities and reduces house prices in the area. Where people are required to move out of their homes, this should be done in a considered and co-ordinated way which supports residents and prevents individuals being left in deserted streets. If homes are to be demolished they are to be emptied and demolished as quickly as possible to make way for new development.
- Homes should not be emptied at all until full planning permission has been fully approved for demolition and new build development in advance (with majority support from the local community) and the required funding for the new development is fully secured with a clear timetable for delivery.
- If an area of existing housing requires improvement, remodeling or redevelopment, then a ‘mixed and balanced’ urban design scheme should be considered where existing properties are retained and improved while being mixed with appropriate new build development.
- Local Authorities and Housing Associations should promote and encourage alternative methods of project procurement for the refurbishment of empty homes such as Homesteading, Co-operatives and Sweat Equity schemes. These are community-based schemes that encourage community involvement while providing better value for money.
- Where ever possible, displaced occupiers should be given a “right to return” following the completion of a housing renewal programme. In practice this means giving first refusal to new or refurbished houses at the same price as the compensation paid to the occupier when they were displaced.
- Where a regeneration scheme is withdrawn or partly withdrawn prior to demolition, owners should be given first refusal to have their home back (where safely habitable). The property should be offered at the same price as the compensation they received minus any compensation due for remedial work to return the property to the condition it was in prior to sale.
- Where properties decanted for renewal schemes are left empty for more than six months, and where decency levels permit, they should be openly offered for temporary accommodation