Following a letter we sent to Rt Hon. Greg Clark, MP, Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, the Empty Homes Network has now received a response from Brandon Lewis, MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning.
In our letter, we had offered the collective expertise and experience of EHN as a resource to help the government develop its empty homes strategy and invited the Secretary of State to consider our Spending Review submission. In our final paragraph, we emphasised the role that the government could play in supporting local initiatives and sought a meeting to discuss ways forward:
What then also needs to be grasped is that, in the era of localism, central government can play a vital role in adding value to local initiatives. We would appreciate the opportunity to help you engage with that role by discussing in more detail some of our proposals. If you are minded to accept our offer, could we arrange to meet you to discuss this?
The reply from Brandon Lewis essentially said that the government was not going to provide any further funding for empty homes initiatives and that the whole issue was now a local matter, which the government was supporting via a combination of New Homes Bonus and Empty Homes Premium. As regards the previous programme of capital funding to tackle empty homes, the Minister commented that "this funding was only intended to provide a push in the right direction and we will not be providing any more." He also emphasised the role of Britain's "strong" economy which he claimed had created "a buoyant housing market, where more owners are bringing empty homes back into use without the need for Government action".
Although this response is not surprising, it is still disappointing.
Our Spending Review Submission is available to all.