Sunday, 15 January 2012

David Gibbens (empty homes network) misses the point in reporting the debate about Hyndburn

In December I initiated a debate on empty homes in Hyndburn which was reported on the empty homes network site.

My main point which was totally overlooked in the article is simply this; Hyndburn has 34,000 families and 36,000 houses and 2,000 empty properties. Regenerating them alone is not the answer.

It is possible to identify many people who want a home and can't get one in Hyndburn. Probably nowhere near 2,000. However they clearly cannot afford and some form of lower than market value mechanisms has to be put in place and when you are dealing with retrofitting old abandoned victorian houses then the cost is quite high.

The Government claims there are 750,000 empty homes which will could help solve the housing crises. David Gibbens in his reporting missed the implications across the both of this obvious point. That the majority of these are depopulated areas (Burnley's population has fallen 20,000, Liverpool's 500,000). Areas of low demand. Areas where supply exceeds demand. Empty properties that require an intelligent more broad based response too if they are to be brought back into use. That's where HMR was partially successful.

In reporting the detail he supported the minister in highlighting the simplicity with which Hyndburn's could access the new government funds (as a non HA provider) missing the points that this was not made feasible before for Hyndburn and the government have now found a means to allow that. Secondly that as an HMR area with some 125 properties still in Council ownership, there may be a financial liability in becoming a landlord again (Hyndburn stock transferred in 2005) as a Council and having a Housing Revenue Account.

It would have been helpful if Mr Gibbens had sent a courtesy email to my staff or I and we could have pointed out the problems that exist with dealing with these matters particularly as a small District Council.