It’s hard to believe it now, but in the 1970s when I grew up the glamour football team to support was Ipswich town. It happened to be my hometown club, but their support spread far and wide. The team was filled with well-mannered, clean-cut role-models like Paul Mariner, George Burley and Mick Mills. But if you were a bit rebellious and liked your footballers cut a bit rough, there was nobody better than Eric Lazenby Gates; a grizzled and aggressive forward who always managed to look a mess but play with astonishing skill. He was the type of man who [...]
I think I’d rather be told straight “You’re wrong!” But ours is not the kind of issue that promotes outright opposition. The strongest resistance we normally get goes something like this “Of course I agree that bringing empty homes into use is a good idea, but in practice it’s just too difficult.”
It’s an annoying put down because it would be petulant to get cross in response. But that doesn’t mean I agree.
These words most commonly come from the lips of local authority councillors or people running housing associations. What it generally means is that they know they have to [...]
>Being a property anorak I couldn’t stop myself dragging my family around the Peckham House this weekend. It’s not empty, in fact it was full to bursting with visitors for the London open house weekend. Some of you may remember this remarkable house as one of the stars of the Grand Designs tv series. The extraordinary owners managed to create a house in the most unpromising site imaginable, with planning restrictions that would have lead most to think that there was no chance of being allowed to build anything. But not only did they gain permission, they built a house [...]
>We think we’ve got a problem. I’m in Ireland for the national social housing conference and the mood is sombre. The housing market in Ireland overheated to a quite phenomenal degree, and is now in full-scale retreat. The damage it has caused is what I have been asked here to talk about. Estimates vary, but even the most conservative say that 200,000 surplus flats have been built. Added to Ireland’s already sizeable empty homes problem it means there could be anything up to 400,000 homes standing empty. The quite extraordinary plan to be unveiled by the housing minister here [...]
>One of the commonest questions we are asked at the Empty Homes Agency goes something like this “I need a home, but I can’t afford one, can I have an empty one?”
For reasons that are pretty obvious it’s a question we are getting asked more and more often. Our answer I’m pleased to report is the Obama like “Yes you can” In fact even better than that we can sometimes even offer a choice. Our answer goes something like this:
“First of all you can borrow one. The best way to do this is through a shortlife housing cooperative. The cooperative [...]
>In yesterday’s post I mentioned some of the victims of the housing market downturn; tenants in buy-to-let properties. Many have found themselves homeless because their landlord has not kept up with mortgage repayments and had their property repossessed. If the cause were the tenant not paying their rent well fair enough perhaps, but all too often it’s no fault of the tenant at all. Most mortgage agreements contain clauses that require the landlord to seek the lenders permission to grant a tenancy. Many landlords don’t realise it’s there and others just ignore it. After all what lender is going to [...]
>Last week I reported on the truly staggering empty homes problem in the United States. The popular repost is – it could never happen here. Well possibly, but probably not for the reasons you might think
When the property market started falling last year there was much talk of what the graph would look like. Would it be a quick down and up “V”, a slower “U”, a down up down and up “W”, a down and stay down “L”, or my particular favourite analogy a down, stay down, then up “skip shape”.
A year in, with talk of property prices and [...]
>A truly mind boggling statistic. There are enough empty homes in the USA to house the whole UK population! And in case you thought that was shocking, we have enough empty homes in England alone to house the whole population of the Republic of Ireland.
>It’s usually flattering to be reported abroad. But I’m not so sure about this from Canadian newspaper The National Post “The Empty Homes Agency (stop that thought, you know it’s not related to the Department of Silly Walks)“ Apparently the Canadian property market is “hot again” and the concept of people leaving homes empty in London and New York seems to fall somewhere between a curiosity and matter of mild amusement.
>I was chairing the CIEH’s excellent empty homes conference yesterday, when at lunchtime I turned on my mobile to be confronted with “you have 16 new messages” all of them it turned out from journalists. ITV had tracked me down and were waiting outside. What on earth had provoked this?
The answer it turns out is this. Squatters in Bishops Avenue. For those of you not obsessed with the self-absorbed world of London real estate, Bishops Avenue in Hampstead is said to be Britain’s most exclusive address. Houses have changed hands here for £80million. So news that squatters were here got [...]
>Three years ago the Mail warned us that we should all be afraid because 250,000 “homes of the dead” could be seized by the state under draconian new powers. They were talking about the introduction of empty dwelling management orders (EDMOs). As Mail headlines go I have to admit it is one of their better ones. I remember responding at the time and saying that councils had had compulsory purchase powers for years so why the fuss over EDMOs. The government said at the time that they only expected a few EDMOs to be used. Well I hate [...]
>Inefficiency in the public sector is always an easy target. Indeed I’m not against having a go about it myself especially when it results in property being needlessly left empty. The target today appears to be quangos. Or should I say QU.A.N.G.O.s (Quasi autonomous non government organisations). The Empty Homes Agency isn’t one in case you were wondering; we are an independent charity with no government funding.
But is inefficiency solely a problem of the public sector? If what I have heard this week is true the answer is no. Several local authorities have told me that a few national retailers [...]
>I apologise, the quality of these photographs is awful, but then so is the subject matter. This is the Ocean Estate in Stepney East London. In 2001 Tony Blair visited here to launch a £56million regeneration scheme that promised to transform one of Britain’s worst estates. Built between 1949 and 1975 it is made up of about 40 blocks and some 1700 flats all of which were due to come down to be replaced by a bright new mixed tenure community. But it wasn’t long before things started go wrong. By 2004 costs had spiralled, and several of the organisations [...]