Empty Homes are rising again in England Government figures show that across England over 205,000 homes have been empty for more than six months, within a wider vacant dwelling category of 605,000 homes.
My question to you is this – how do you carry on with your ‘proactive’ empty homes work without a current list of empty homes? And my reply is – it’s quite tricky!
So for the past six months I’ve been without a list of empty homes. This was due to our council tax group having a new system installed followed by time taken for staff training including training on how to run off tailored reports like the ones I get.
I am just finishing my first full week as Director of Action on Empty Homes.
I come to the world of housing almost entirely new to the subject, barring my recent and ongoing involvement in the Community Plan for Holloway (see the link below).
My route here came by way of over a decade of work on criminal justice policy, where I learned prisons are full of some of the most vulnerable people in our country. Criminal justice has become a repository for people with the type of social problems we are finding it very difficult to resolve as a society.
It’s been a strange year for me so far. Half-way through January I managed to get second degree burns to my leg after knocking over a pot of coffee and it’s taken me a while to recover. I’m being really careful around boiling kettles these days…
However the advantage of being off sick and then working from home meant I have had a lot of time to think about my approach to my empty homes work for 2018.
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Shelter Scotland knows how to build variety in to their Conferences. Last year, featured a powerful session by the photographer and famously ex-punk ex-drummer ex-Mancunian John Maher. This year the artistic highlight was provided by Jackie Kay, the Scots Makar (Scotland's National Poet).
One of my favourite experiences from 2016 was last November’s Scottish Empty Homes Conference, held in Edinburgh. So I was determined to attend the 2017 event, which this year was held in Glasgow.
People make Glasgow
Back in the 1970s, when I lived in Edinburgh, Glasgow seemed rather grey and foreboding. It was a place to visit for rock concerts and football matches, but I didn’t get to know the city at all.
Where did the last three months go?! I posted my previous blog in May/June and I can’t believe we’re already in October.
The new dates for National Empty Homes Week this year will be from 16th to 22nd October, which makes a lot of sense. It’s a better time of year to be contacting owners rather than December, when the last thing they were interested in was their empty property.
I came back from the EHN conference this year with lots of new and useful information – it really is worth the train fare (and lodging costs!)
David Gibbens’ session on ‘New Homes Bonus – what the changes mean’ was full of excellent examples year on year of how the changes will affect us all. I always find it tricky to get my head around the complex calculations, but David set it out as simply as possible.
And it was fascinating to hear Rex Duis (who runs Property Guardians UK) explain property guardianship, particularly as he is a ‘seasoned’ property guardian himself.
I’d like to start off my blog with a huge ‘thank you’ to David Gibbens for originally setting up the EHN (which was originally called NAEPP) and for regularly ‘going that extra mile’ in dedicating his time to making the EHN the success it is today. Without David’s passion, time, enthusiasm, terrific eye for detail and ability to understand complex issues, we would not have our current thriving EHN. We’ll miss you when you retire, David, as no one person could ever replace you.