Antony Fletcher

Antony Fletcher was the founder and moving force behind Action On Empty Homes and it is with great sadness that we have to report his death.

Throughout his life, Antony approached all of his many endeavours with a degree of passion and commitment that invariably achieved results, although his unorthodox approach to problem-solving not infrequently drove his opponents to distraction.

Antony enjoyed a short career as a barrister, followed by an attempt to secure a seat in Parliament at the 1964 election. This was unsuccessful, despite photographic evidence of him having recruited the services of a mermaid to assist with his electioneering. Thereafter, he ran the Opposition Whip’s Office and acted as a private secretary to Ted Heath.

In 1968 he went on to become the first chief executive of Quadrant Housing Association, which he had earlier jointly founded. Quadrant grew rapidly to become one of the largest housing associations in the country and it was there that his interest and passion for tackling empty property took root. This was largely as a result of agreeing to host a temporary lettings department run by the well-known campaigner, Ron Bailey. Empty properties were leased from local authorities, repaired, and let to homeless families who were waiting for permanent rehousing. This was an effective alternative to leaving properties to decay, whilst continuing to house homeless families in expensive bed and breakfast accommodation.

Ron was keen to see similar arrangements rolled out to other areas across the country and to this end, in partnership with Shelter, he and Antony set up the Housing Emergency Office (HEO) in 1977. The HEO prospered for almost a decade, until Shelter decided to focus their funding elsewhere and the organisation closed in 1986.

Antony was perturbed by this decision, since there was no other agency campaigning around the scandal of empty property and wasted homes, so he resolved to revive the organisation.  This he did and, having personally raised the necessary funding, the first board meeting of the new Empty Homes Agency took place in his apartment at Albany, in Piccadilly, in 1992. He went on to Chair and guide the organisation for the next ten years, during which time he ceaselessly lobbied each and every administration. 

At one point, Antony managed to persuade Sir George Young, the then Housing Minister, that he needed a special advisor on empty property. A beleaguered MOD official, who had subsequently been on the receiving end of Antony’s campaigning to bring empty MOD properties back into use, wrote to Sir George complaining that:  “This man is a thorough nuisance”.  An observation that Antony would unquestionably have considered as a compliment to his persistence in seeking to make Government servants do the right thing.

Never one to outstay any role, he stood down as Chair to become a patron, while maintaining his interest in its success until his death.  

Today, the same organisation, now known as Action on Empty Homes, remains forever in his debt. Sadly, the scandal of empty homes still persists but the work so close to Antony’s heart continues.

Jon Fitzmaurice OBE

Founder Board Member