Now that Homes Transformed’s radio, TV and press coverage has spread the word about our high quality renovations and refurbishments, it’s time to raise awareness of our main passion. We want to help bring disused local housing stock back into use for the local population. One of our main goals is to help provide high quality affordable housing for local people.
Last week was National Empty Homes Week. Homes Transformed Limited has extensive experience in working with empty or distressed property. We specialise in buying distressed property direct from homeowners so that we create a way out of a difficult situation for them.
It is currently estimated that there are 710,000 empty homes in the UK. There are 1100 long-term empty homes in Ipswich that are privately owned, so that’s a lot of individual home owners. Given that the vast majority of empties are in private ownership, it follows that the circumstances for each empty home can be very different.
The council has been handing out some improvement grants to help people refurbish their homes so they can be lived in again or sold on.
In January 2013 the authority launched a new scheme called ‘Report It Empty’ which encourages members of the public to report empty properties to the council so that an investigation can be carried out.
Given the numbers, the council tend to focus their resources on the most problematic empty homes – in particular those which are causing problems locally – perhaps because of vandalism, damp, vermin or other environmental health issues. They also focus more on homes that have been empty for longer – starting with charging 150% Council Tax on homes that have been empty two years more.
This approach could be classed as an “enforcement” approach – making sure that people deal with their empty home – particularly if it’s causing problems locally. My experience so far suggests that there are a good number of owners who respond to this type of action.
However, this won’t work for everyone. Some people need more encouragement and support – and that’s where our Empty Homes Doctor comes in. Our hunch (and it’s now backed up by experience) is that the majority of people want to bring their empty property back into use, but aren’t sure how to do it.
Some homeowners don’t wish to sell their property so our Empty Homes Doctor offers tailored, one-to-one support – meeting the owner at their property, finding out what they want to achieve, and listening to what’s stopping them from bringing their home back into use.
We can outline a series of options for them to consider – which could include things like information about letting agents that are active in the area, or details on how to apply to the National Empty Homes Loan Fund. Then, if they’d like us to, we’ll continue to work with them to help them take practical steps towards bringing their home back into use.
Our Empty Homes Doctor’s most important task is to listen. People’s circumstances are often quite complicated – and dealing with an empty home can be quite an emotional experience. A good number of homes are empty because they are inherited – whilst plenty more are empty because of financial difficulties. In some cases the homes belong to elderly people, those in care or from broken families. Often, the most important first step is to help an owner to gather their thoughts, and break down what can feel like a massive problem into a series of practical steps.
This is where we think we make a difference – working with people that the council isn’t able to spend as much time with – and offering a different type of service. We’ve worked with owners of empty properties which are now back in use as a result.
Hopefully at some point we’ll be able to work alongside the council’s empty homes officers to bring more homes back into use.