It would have been a major surprise, given recent government press releases, if the New Homes Bonus had not gone ahead more or less as planned. And that is exactly what has happened. The final scheme design announced today is, as far as we can see, identical to the model proposed in the original consultation document.
We were pleased to receive a warm response from government minister Andrew Stunell following the letter we sent to him in January containing our practical suggestions for the distribution of the £100M for empty homes.
About 10 days ago we followed up the letter we wrote to Grant Shapps in November about the £100Million captial for empty homes with a further one to Andrew Stunell where we offered more detailed proposals about how the money should be distributed. We accepted that the HCA was probably the best agency to distribute the funding, but we re-iterated our view that the immediate beneficiaries should be local authorities. We proposed that councils should bid for the money against well-researched valuie-for-money criteria.
The Guardian newspaper has published an interesting report about self-help housing, pointing out its usefulness and its relevance for the "Big Society". It features some interesting schemes and self-help organisations and makes the point that more support is needed for this sectorf.
In an announcement by Grant Shapps, the government is now actively floating its plans to help communities acquire surplus publicly-owned land and buildings. The story can be found here. As a start, the HCA surplus property portfoliio has been published. Details from other public agencies will follow in due course.
You might be interested to know how other organisations have responded to the New Homes Bonus proposals. Alll are broadly in favour of extending them to empty homes with more or less enthusiasm.
There was a surprise story featuring Andrew Stunell released on the CLG website at some point on Monday 10th January, entitled "New incentives to tackle the blight of empty homes". This describes the New Homes Bonus and encourages people to report empties to their council so the council can take action.
Local Sustainable Homes: How to Make Them Happen in Your Community, by Chris Bird
Transition Books (2010) £14.95, paperback, 240pp, ISBN 978 1 900322 768; Kindle edition also available.
(This review is also available in PDF format - see attachment at end of review)
The localist road to sustainability
If you want to know what localism might look like translated into actual housing projects, then this book gives you all the practical examples you could possibly hope for.