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Andrew Stunell: Communities have a chance to revive their neighbourhoods
Department for Communities and Local Government
Wednesday 25 Jan 2012 @ 09:42
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Communities Minister Andrew Stunell yesterday invited community and voluntary organisations to apply for a share of £100 million that will help revitalise communities and bring the empty homes blighting their areas back into use.

Mr Stunell said that the Government cash would help tackle this national scandal, creating more affordable housing and giving a new lease of life to homes and communities.

Some community projects have already started tackling the empty homes in their area include:

  • PHASES, a small registered charity operating which trains marginalised people in South London in construction. Phases renovated a former GP's surgery in Camberwell which had been empty for about seven years. The ground floor became offices for themselves and another charity, while the first floor was re-instated as a three-bedroom flat which has been let to a family on the council's waiting list.
  • Giroscope, formed in 1985 by a group of ex-students and unemployed young people bought an empty property by getting together their giro cheques and borrowing funds. They have been working to tackle homelessness for almost 25 years, buying, renovating and letting properties in West Hull for people in housing need. To date, Giroscope has acquired and renovated 23 houses, seven flats, three offices, a shop, a meeting space and 3,000 square feet of workshop space, helping many hundreds of people over the years.

Around 720,000 homes are sitting empty across the country - with 280,000 unused and under-maintained for six months or more.

Assisted by the New Homes Bonus which rewards councils for getting empty homes back into use, more than 21,000 long-term empty homes have been brought back into use in the last year, and the community grants programme is the next step in the Government's strategy for tackling the problem.

The minister appointed fund manager Tribal - who have a wealth of experience in dealing with voluntary and community groups - to manage distribution of funding to successful applicants. Tribal will also assess applications and report back to the Department according to the criteria set out in the guidance released today.

Successful applications will:

  • bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing
  • deliver value for money
  • have support from their local authority
  • expect to be complete by 31 March 2015.

Mr Stunell encouraged innovative and ambitious applications, expressing his hope that successful projects would not only bring much needed empty homes back into use but also provide extra opportunities for local jobs and training.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said:

"The blight of empty, abandoned homes is putting strain on communities right across the country - if every empty home were refurbished and made fit for living, we could nearly halve the housing waiting list. Thousands of homes have already come back into use in the last year - but there's plenty more to do.

"The Government is committed to bringing this national scandal to an end. That's why the programme I've launched today will give communities a chance to breathe new life into their neighbourhoods. This is an opportunity to create high quality new homes to ease the local waiting list, boost local skills and revive local pride."

This funding is part of the Government's Affordable Homes Programme to build up to 170,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. It is expected that up to £30million of the total £100 million could be given over to community groups.

Other groups that have successfully transformed empty homes in their areas include:

  • Canopy, a small self-help housing charity in Leeds which renovates derelict houses with volunteers and homeless people. Homeless families are housed in quality, affordable homes that they have helped to bring back into use. They contribute to the regeneration of disadvantaged areas, and increase community cohesion as they train groups of unemployed local volunteers, helping them move towards work.
  • B4box, a social enterprise and building company operating in Greater Manchester and the North West. B4box provides apprenticeships in building trades - working in empty homes which offer the full range of experience in building skills, as well as regenerating the communities they work in. Recently they completed a property owned by Salford City Council which had been empty for 18 years.

Notes to editors

1. There are around 720,000 empty homes in England, with 279,000 empty for six months or more.

2. The Department has appointed Tribal to administer the fund. Tribal Group PLC has a wealth of experience in managing multi-million pound grant programmes that target voluntary and community sector organisations and groups for public sector bodies.

3. Guidance and the application form are available to download from their website at www.grantsadmin.co.uk (external link). Guidance is available on the Department's website here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/emptyhomeappguidance.

4. The deadline for applications is 17 April 2012.

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