Housing Associations have become rather thin on the ground for local authorities looking for partners, so it is particularly valuable to see what can be achieved by a committed association that is able to unlock Homes England funding. In some long-ago era ,this partnership might have been described as run-of-the-mill: today it can only be regarded as exemplary and perhaps not surprisingly has involved, in Action Housing, an association with a strong roots in community engagement and a commitment to delivering outcomes for vulnerable people, recalling a time when there was a ‘housing association movement’.
The Award Certificate was presented by Abdus Saleh, Head of Business Development at sponsors Cromwood Social, to Thomas Evans, Joint Empty Homes Officer at Bolsover DC and David Palmer, Head of Development at Action Housing.
Partnership Award Submission – Bolsover District Council / Action Housing
In Bolsover District there are approximately 34,000 homes, 700 of which have been empty for more than 6 months. The Council is committed to tackling this problem by developing an Empty Property Strategy and employing an Officer who is dedicated to working on bringing empty properties back into use. The District is predominantly rural and most properties fall into Band A and B for Council Tax; this means that there are limited financial resources available for enforcement action and housing development is challenging.
Whilst recognising the need to reduce the number of empty properties and increase the number of homes; the Council hase had to be innovative with its approach and has therefore developed a partnership with Action Housing (a local registered provider) which can access Homes England funding to redevelop empty buildings and transform them into homes. Action has a long history of providing homes for people who require support and also for those in need of affordable housing, It also has an excellent reputation for customer service, tenancy management and a shared aspiration for tackling empty properties.
Officers from both organisations have developed a close working relationship by maintaining open communications, regular meetings and sharing the same values and goals. In just 2 years, the partnership has resulted in 11 long term problematic empty buildings being brought back into use which has created 36 units of affordable accommodation.
The Station Hotel is a building that was constructed in 1875 and had, for years been the entertainment hub of the village of Creswell. Since the late 90’s the building had lain empty and had fallen into a derelict state, during this period there were also numerous fires and incidents of ASB (anti-social behaviour). 10 years ago the building was purchased at auction by a group of developers, who, upon inspecting the building, realised they didn’t have the finance available to bring the building back into use. Due to the deterioration of the building and the increasing number of incidents, the Council approached them, along with Action Housing, which proposed to lease the building from them and use Homes England funding to renovate the building into residential accommodation. A lease was signed and work commenced on the building in August 2017 and was completed in March 2018.
This once long-term derelict building now contains 15 1 & 2 bed apartments, which has addressed the need for this type of accommodation in this area, which is predominantly populated by houses that are unsuitable for single people and smaller families; particularly since the introduction of the under occupation charge and benefit cap.
Whilst the building has been changed to residential use, the exterior appearance has been restored to its former glory, which is in keeping with other buildings in the area. One resident – who moved into the area to be closer to her family following the death of her husband – advised that as soon as she viewed her apartment, she said ‘This is mine – I’m having this! It’s absolutely fantastic’. When she had settled into her apartment she advised that since her husband passed away, moving into the apartment meant that she has ‘never felt so good’. As there is a lack of 1 bedroom accommodation in the area, she had previously struggled to find anything suitable and so the transformation of this building has resolved her housing need and allows her to access support from her family who live close by.
In April, the Council initiated the purchase (through Action Housing) of an empty derelict Miners Welfare in Creswell, which had also been the subject of numerous fires and incidents of ASB over the 15 years it has lain empty, in part due to the closure of the local colliery. The building will be converted into 11 spacious apartments by December 2018, which will once again provide much-needed affordable accommodation in the area.
Due to the success of the partnership and the number of empty properties that have been brought back into use as a result; the project has been the subject of a BBC documentary which focuses on Councils’ approaches to bringing empty properties back into use.
2 further buildings are in the process of being purchased through this partnership which, once complete, will have brought 14 empty buildings back into use and have created more than 60 much needed affordable homes across the District. Without the partnership, these empty buildings would have continued to remain empty; causing a nuisance amongst the community and continuing to be a drain on public services.