In Empty Homes Week 2022 its time to let communities take back control of empty homes, says Brighid Carey

Back in Empty Homes Week 2021 Action on Empty Homes called for expansion of the Community Housing Fund to provide dedicated funding to support communities to refurbish long-term empty homes and create high quality, well-insulated, affordable homes.

We did this because community action offers five clear benefits:

  1. Real impact on community health and wellbeing. Offering jobs, training and improved housing for those in greatest housing need, not as defined arbitrarily by statistics but based on community knowledge and locally agreed priorities.
  2. The modernisation and refurbishment of empty property to provide sustainable, quality housing to meet local needs aligns with national agendas around sustainability, tackling fuel poverty and climate change preparedness.
  3. Locally-led projects use the resources, powers and data gathered by local councils to catalyse community action. This is informed by knowledge of what is needed and what works best locally, so that spend is effective, oversight transparent and impact meaningful.
  4. If adopted widely this can make a real contribution to housing supply across the country, with priority placed on the areas of greatest need. This aligns with national priorities around ‘levelling up’ and anchoring re-investment strategies in under-invested communities.
  5. Investment can be recycled within communities, through the economic and social multiplier effects of local supply chains, local enterprise and building skills, supporting and growing community resilience. The new housing assets created offer both a future income stream and an asset base.

Support for community-led solutions and for an increasingly entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving in social delivery has been a consistent theme of, at least, the last four Governments since 2010.

Yet a Government keen to address the housing crisis remains focused primarily on limited market interventions, with too few affordable homes in the mix.  Local councils have increasing duties towards those threatened with homelessness, numbers of homeless households are still on the rise and yet there were 38,000 more long-term empty homes in England in 2021 (238,306) than there were when the last National Empty Homes Programme ended in 2015. Such a waste of a valuable resource.

Communities have shown they can act - see our report ‘Community action on empty homes – Using empty homes to regenerate communities’ (AEH:2019).  Community action can turn lives around and build resilient infrastructure founded on delivery of secure affordable homes for local people and a resurgence of community enterprise. 

Don’t know how to get started?

Action on Empty Homes is rolling out a project which offers communities and local authorities the tools to work together in harnessing wasted empty homes to deliver real community housing impact.

First published in May 2021 and launched around the country at a series of regional events in York, Manchester and Birmingham in November, our Community Action on Empty Homes Toolkit promotes local resilience, shows how to reach a broader range of funding streams to support local delivery and allows councils and communities to work together to tailor solutions and target delivery to meet local needs.

To get more information about our Community Action Toolkit click here or for support and advice contact Brighid Carey [@]

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