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“Bring empty homes back to life” says BPF
The British Property Federation has urged the Government to tackle the UK housing crisis by bringing empty homes back to life. Reviving empty homes provides a cheaper alternative to building new ones. Bringing a house back into use can take as little as £10,000, a fraction of the £100,000 cost of building a new social home from scratch.
There are currently 762,000 empty homes in England and close to 1m in the UK, according to figures released by the independent charity Empty Homes.
Meanwhile, there are 450,000 fewer social homes than a decade ago and 1.7m families languishing on housing waiting lists, the agency said.
This ‘social housing crunch’ has been exacerbated by house building rates falling to their lowest rate since the 1920s, a situation that will be made still worse by a £450m cut in the Homes and Communities Agency’s budget that has caused it to scrap two of its key house building programmes.
With house building in tatters, renovating empty homes provides a viable alternative to tackle the country’s social housing crisis. It would also tackle some of the problems caused by empty homes, which can attract petty crime, squatters, fly tipping, vandalism and occasionally arson – forcing areas with high numbers of empty homes into a spiral of decline.
To solve this, the BPF and Empty Homes (The Empty Homes Agency) are calling for money to renovate homes. This should be reallocated from the HCA’s temporary social housing grants, which are currently only available for new builds.
They are also calling for the Government to extend its proposed council tax incentive scheme to cover empty homes, not just new builds.
Reusing empty homes can also have environmental benefits. Recent research by Empty Homes New Tricks with Old Bricks showed the renovation of an empty house creates about a third of the CO2 emissions of building a new one.
British Property Federation’s Chief Executive, Liz Peace, said, “Renovating empty homes is an opportunity for the Government to get people of housing waiting lists and into ‘good as new’ homes; it will also save them money in the process.
“Awarding renovation grants will remove eyesores from the local community and rectify lost incomes for the owner and surrounding landlords. It is a win-win situation for the owner of empty properties and the campaign to recycle existing housing stock.
“With the upcoming comprehensive spending review we can expect local authority funding to be cut however the need to supply new homes doesn’t go away, renovating empty homes is a certain way of providing homes.”