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EHN Awards Highlight National Successes - Our Winners

July 5, 2022

This years EHN Empty Homes Awards, presented during our annual Conference in May, showcased some of the incredible work by officers and teams in their efforts to bring empty homes back into use across the Country.

In what was a number year for submissions, our award winners have undoubtedly demonstrated that perseverance, dedication and partnership working, can often lead to results that benefit all parties involved, and can lead to lasting change for the wider community and neighbourhoods.

Here, we highlight our award winners and those highly commended for their successful efforts in bringing empty homes back into use, as well as in their wider roles, teams and partnerships.

Empty Homes Practitioner of The Year

Winner: Steve March - Dorset Council

Encompassing and heading up all aspects of the Council’s empty homes service, Steve has significantly raised the profile of empty homes work ensuring that such work remains a housing priority across Dorset.

Moving away from a statistical reduction into a more enforcement driven approach, Steve’s efforts to instill processes and procedures across the local authority has ensured that everyone is pulling in the same direction, from colleagues, departments through to senior management and elected members.

His work and continued efforts to train staff, guide colleagues, inform and gain support for enforcement action and secure funding for empty homes work, not only sets a solid foundation for the local authority to prosper in their caseload progression, but sets a benchmark for other councils and empty homes practitioners to follow.

A worthy and deserving winner of this year’s Empty Homes Practitioner of The Year.

Highly Commended: Ben Crampton - Durham County Council

Highly Commended: Deborah Hawkes - Leicester City Council

Meeting The Challenge Award

Joint Winner: Rosie Gage - Plymouth City Council

This submission is the perfect example of where persistence and pressure can ensure that a resolution is found, even where a sale has been agreed and solicitors instructed.

From the outset, Rosie’s research and prior knowledge of the property gave her the perfect platform from which to commence negotiations with the owner, and despite a number of setbacks, was able to convince them to sell their property.

Despite numerous threats to the progress of the sale, Rosie acted as a broker, estate agent, negotiator and voice of reason to ensure that the owner remained on focused on the sale, and to ensure heads weren’t turned which would have inevitably caused further delay and problems.

A lesson in persistence and negotiation to any practitioner, and a worthy winner of this award.

Joint Winner: The Empty Homes Doctor - Leeds

Facing an uphill struggle to trace, contact and engage with the family of a deceased owner, The Empty Homes Doctor were able to work and negotiate with a family in Australia to bring a successful resolution to a challenging case.

Over the course of an 18-month period, the team at Empty Homes Doctor have shown persistence and commitment, not only to ensure that a troublesome empty property is brought back into use, but that the beneficiaries of the sale would rightly receive the resultant sale fee.

The patience and attention to detail shown by the team at Empty Homes Doctor are indicative of the traits required to succeed in empty homes work, and for this pursuit and determination, they should be highly commended for their efforts.

Highly Commended: Kelly Ferns - Argyll & Bute Council

Highly Commended: The Empty Homes Team - Preston City Council

The Partnership Award

Joint Winner: Preston City Council & Community Gateway Association

By providing a holistic solution for empty home owners across the city, the partnership formed by Preston City Council and the Community Gateway Association through their ‘Making Homes from Houses’ initiative, should be seen as a benchmark for local authorities aiming to set up or develop similar partnerships across the country.

By showing the tenacity and commitment in finding a solution for all parties involved, Preston City Council and the Community Gateway Association have been able to bring a detrimental property back into use, but also increase their housing stock for local families on the housing register.

Unperturbed by seemingly endless delays in the sale process, the team and their strength of partnership ensured that this case would not be pushed aside, and this should be rewarded through our Partnership Award this year.

Joint Winner: Sunderland City Council & Thirteen Housing Group

Leading on a partnership between local authority and housing association, Lucy has spearheaded the efforts in returning empty homes back into use across three ward areas of Sunderland, all with particularly high levels of empty homes.

Encompassing all aspects, not only of empty homes work, but in administration, marketing, negotiation and finance, Lucy has engaged partners and key stakeholders to ensure that the local authority has a presence and a commitment to areas of the city which may have previously suffered from blight and degradation.

In returning empty homes to use, the partnership has increased their housing stock available at affordable rent levels, tackled ASB and criminality, and improved the general appearance and feeling for residents in their respective areas.

Lucy, Sunderland City Council and Thirteen Housing Group should be congratulated on their work, and deserve national recognition for their efforts and initiative.

Highly Commended: The Empty Homes Doctor & Auction House West Yorkshire

Highly Commended: Great Yarmouth Borough Council & Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust

The Rising Star Award

Winner: Daniel Newman - Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils

Having been appointed to the role of Empty Homes Officer in 2021, Daniel has built the empty homes service from the ground up across two local authority areas. Building on his experience in private sector housing, Daniel has evidently made this role his own, but to the benefit of the wider authorities, and the residents who live within them.

Developing a successful empty homes toolkit to be used across the region, Daniel has also formed a countywide forum, meeting on a bi-monthly basis to share best practice and ideas, which is a fantastic achievement.

By developing links with internal and external partners, Daniel’s determination and commitment to empty homes work is exceptional, leading to him securing a significant increase in financial backing from the local authority to continue and build on the incredible success that has already been achieved. For this reason, Daniel is to be congratulated, applauded, and is a deserving winner of the Rising Star Award.

Highly Commended: Rachel Elford - Dorset Council

Highly Commended: Will Hunter - Durham County Council

Best Before & After Photograph

Joint Winner: The Empty Homes Team - Preston City Council

A fantastic example of how the return to use of an empty home can benefit the wider community; this property sits on a corner plot and was significantly hoarded by its previous occupants.

Empty for a number of years, the property had been the target of vandalism and anti-social behaviour, but has now been fully refurbished and to be used for those who are in housing need locally, through the council’s Making Homes from Houses initiative.

Joint Winner: The Empty Homes Team - North East Lincolnshire Council

By assisting an owner who had experienced difficulties with a previous tenant, North East Lincolnshire Council were able to avoid compulsory purchase action and work with the owner to agree a voluntary acquisition.

Despite requiring extensive refurbishment works, the council were able to provide a charity loan, and ensure that the purchase package was a feasible option for a local charity, whose intention throughout the process was to let to someone in housing need locally.

This has since been achieved, and in returning an empty and problematic property to use, have been able to support a young family into moving into a home of their own.

Highly Commended: Kelly Ferns - Argyll & Bute Council

Highly Commended: The Empty Homes Team - Arun District

Highly Commended: The Empty Homes Team - Sunderland City Council

The Innovation Award

Winner: The Empty Homes Team - North East Lincolnshire Council

Awarded for their forward thinking in supporting a partner to make a property purchase a viable prospect, North East Lincolnshire Council’s empty homes team are clear in their approach, that they will do what it takes, with the resources they have at hand, to bring empty homes back into use successfully.

In partnership with local charity Grimsby and Cleethorpes Area Doorstep, the authority worked with the owner to seek a reasonable resolution to a problematic property, having been empty for over 5 years.

Bringing together their experience, external and internal partners, the inclusion of a charity loan made available by the council, ensured that the sale could complete, refurbishment could begin, and property brought back into use.

Their adaptable and can-do approach, makes them worthy winners of this year’s Innovation Award.