Brighid Carey updates us on her work developing the Action on Empty Homes Community Toolkit below:

Brighid writes,

Back in December last year, I told you about the Community Action on Empty Homes Toolkit we’re developing for communities and local authorities to use together. The aim is to put communities in the driving seat and meet local housing needs from empty homes. That’s not all though – community action on empty homes provides work experience and training, and opportunities to develop other projects such as community gardens, bike workshops, local shops and markets…. the list goes on.

The community-based approach works for local authorities too. In December 19, I’d just completed a survey of local authorities to ask how many were working with communities around empty homes. Few had active projects on the go but most that replied said they would like to support community action but couldn’t see how it could happen in their area.. This is where our Toolkit comes in – to help guide communities and local authorities together through the process of setting up a community-based project, bringing empty homes in use to meet local needs, and providing work experience and training along the way.

The first draft of the Toolkit is now done and is in the process of being reviewed by a small ‘Reference Group’ of community groups and local authorities who volunteered to be ‘critical friends’. In these C-19 times, we’ve had to adjust the way we consult, holding ‘zoom workshops’ and receiving written comments via email. This has worked surprisingly well though and we’ve had some really positive and useful feedback.

The content of the Toolkit so far has met with approval from Reference Group colleagues. A comment we will definitely be taking on board however is that there are too many words! We’ll review the layout and include more diagrams, flow charts, graphs and photo’s etc. We also had some excellent suggestions about page layout to help make the Toolkit easier to read and use.

Our current aim is to have a second draft ready for October this year. This will again be discussed with the Reference Group, and ideally - if conditions allow - with a wider group of community representatives and local authorities. We want to make sure the Toolkit is useful and to ‘field-test’ it properly before it’s published for free download in April 2021.

For more information about how community action on empty homes can help meet local housing needs and rebuild a real sense of belonging and place, please take a look at our earlier project: ‘Community Action on Empty Homes – using empty homes to regenerate communities’ and the final (May 2019) report on that project which you can download here

Brighid Carey, June 1st 2020