Journalist Samir Jeraj explores the question of empty homes and people doing it for themselves
Government has seen the wisdom of funding empty homes work and announced that they will be providing £300m in funding to councils, housing associations and charities to bring 5000 long term empty properties back into use.
The actual number of empty homes varies, as the statistics aren’t entirely accurate. Empty Homes states that 710 000 homes are empty in England with 259 000 homes being long-term empty. Statistics aren’t published in Wales and Northern Ireland, so Empty Homes estimates that UK-wide there are 920 000 empty homes with 330 000 long term empty.
Renovation of homes is a cheaper way of providing housing, with the average cost of renovation at £10,000. It’s also a way for people to come together to control and shape their housing, and by extension their lives.
Several charities and organisations have been working with volunteers and tenants on bringing empty homes back into use for decades now.
Housing innovation in Hull
Giroscope in Hull was started by a group of political activists in the 1980s. Spurred on by the idea of creating an alternative to the policies of the Thatcher Government, they pooled their Giro cheques to buy an empty property. They then renovated it, learning building skills in the process, and rented it out at low cost and moved on to another empty house.
By 2007, when they became a charity, Giroscope had 40 residential properties and 9 business premises and were successfully operating as a social enterprise in the private rented housing market.
This community based housing model has been applied elsewhere such as Leeds, where Canopy was founded in 1998 to renovate and provide affordable housing.
Reusing empty homes can provide a great opportunity for new models of housing, whether co-op, private rented, or something completely different.
And maybe in YOUR area?
The funding is there for the taking. Hopefully we’ll see more community-based housing projects like Giroscope and Canopy which provide long-term affordable housing.