Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Empty Properties: Why the Government will fail at the expense of Haslingden and Hyndburn

I have much scepticism about recent housing proposals put forward by the Government.

On balance they will have a negligible impact on the total number of 738,000 empty properties there currently is.

The recent and much trumpeted New Homes Bonus is a mechanism designed to deal with under supply. Its affect in under supply housing areas will be negative on housing. Council's have been top sliced to fund this and housing growth will be greatest in the greater South East, in areas that do not need extra government funding.

The money being removed from northern and urban areas where new build will not be as required and the payments significantly less.

The scheme undermines further these areas with its criteria. It deducts (short term) demolitions from total new build.  However long term voids/vacants demolished are exempt and produce no net change. However there are few areas with a continuum of long term voids and any regeneration programme would be hampered by deductions for occupied and short term vacant.

It encourages the abandonement of long term voids.
The use of national average Council Tax bands is a regressive North to South shift of finance, the south having a higher proportion of Band D+ plus properties. Areas which incidently have the least problems and isolates housing solutions from broader issues. Giving areas with high numbers of Band A properties less is likely to increase sub regional poverty and increase the residulisation of welfare and dependency.

In the North oversupply will at its core, negate new build. Stagnant or declining populationsin certain twons and cities and more specifially in low demand and undesireable areas will put the skids under new additional housing.

The incentives in the NHB are insignificant set against the cost of bringing empty properties back in to use, all against a backdrop of declining populations.

Innovative two in to ones or three into one conversions and small scale clearance by private sector companies looking to seize on small site and corner plot locations for example. Regeneration schemes tend not only to deal with empties (long term voids) but short term voids and occupied properties, the latter two being a deduction from the new homes bonus.

There is no clarity on whether new homes brought back into use will attract the £350 (paid for affordability) or any other top up payment. In any case, the same issue that blights EDMO’s, the upfront cost of making a place habitable being the barrier to use.

The £100million is for just 3,000 houses at £33,000 each and was until recently only available to RSL’s.

There has been no roll up of complex legislation and scrapping the national landlords register will have an adverse effect. As well relaxing HMO licensing. The Coalition are also looking at removing second charging for values under £25,000 which could make ineffective blight laws (T and C Planning Act) and other measures leveraged by enforced sale.

EDMO’s have proved fruitless with only a handful of LA’s using them odd occasions averaging nationally around 20 per year. Hardly a breakthrough with 738,000 empties.

Housing market renewal has been scrapped and changes to Housing Benefit will increase sofa surfing and hidden homelessness correspondingly increasing vacants.

Hyndburn’s population has declined by around 50 units per year so as a LA it starts at minus 50 as far as NHB is concerned.

In summary it is likely that long term voids will increase and stock condition will fall depreciably.