Preston Council have been trying to tackle the number of empty dwellings in the city for a number of years, which is comparatively high to other cities in the Lancashire region. In 2021, 392 homes had been vacant for over two years, 101 for over five years, and 41 for more than a decade! In total, there were nearly 2000 empty properties that year, despite high numbers of people in need of a home. This is why the Making Homes from Houses Project exists, hoping to tackle the issue and give Preston’s empty living spaces a much needed revamp. But how will the Project contribute to the local Preston housing market overall?
What is the Making Homes from Houses Project?
The Making Homes from Houses Project is an innovative initiative launched in Preston, England, aimed at tackling the issue of homelessness and affordable housing. The project is based on the concept of converting unused and underutilised properties in the city into affordable and sustainable homes. It demonstrates a united effort by Preston City Council and Community Gateway, which is a local non-for-profit community business aimed at addressing the housing needs of people in Preston and nearby areas.
This project is a component of a comprehensive initiative by the city council to tackle the problem of homelessness and furnish more economical housing alternatives for community inhabitants. By repurposing existing properties, the council aspires to lessen the quantity of deserted and abandoned properties in the city, while simultaneously delivering more economical homes for those who require them.
The project offers two options for property owners who have empty homes. The first option is that the project will purchase the property and fund any necessary renovation works required to make it suitable for renting to individuals who need social housing. The second option is a repair and lease program where CGA assists property owners in funding the repair work. After the renovation work is completed, CGA will rent the property from the owner at an affordable rate for a specified period to individuals on their housing waiting list. CGA will manage the property on the owner’s behalf, and the owner will receive rental income after deducting any management fees. Once the lease period is up, the owner will have the freedom to do whatever they want with the property.
How many homes has the Project transformed?
Due to the lack of social housing in Preston, there are currently 1000 people waiting for a home. This spurs the project to make use of vacant properties to meet the high demand. As of yet, 30 homes have been refurbished, which arguably leaves a lot of work to be done.
What is the problem with empty homes?
Having a large number of empty properties can have a detrimental effect on the local community. They can attract anti-social behaviour and crime, which can then lower the overall appearance of the area and reduce residents’ confidence in their neighbourhood.
Empty properties can also generate a financial loss. According to Preston City Council, keeping an empty property can cost approximately £8,000 a year. By transforming a property into a livable state, it can not only address the shortage of inhabitable properties in Preston and the UK more widely, but also provide property owners with rental income.
The empty property situation in Preston is far from isolated. The government figures released in November 2022 reported that there were 257, 331 long-term empty homes. This was classified as homes that have been vacant for over six months. With so many houses, and so many people – including families – in need of a more permanent home, repurposing empty properties can provide a welcome solution.
The advantages of renovating empty homes on housing market in Preston and the UK
Renovating empty homes can have several positive effects on the overall housing market. These include:
- Increasing the supply of available housing: Converting empty homes into liveable homes can add to the overall housing stock, increasing the supply of available housing in the market. This can help to meet the demand for affordable housing and address the shortage of homes in certain areas.
- Reducing the number of abandoned and derelict properties: Empty homes can contribute to blight and decay in local neighbourhoods, and renovating them can help to reduce this problem. This, in turn, can improve the quality of life for local residents and make the area more attractive to new residents.
- Creating employment opportunities: Renovating empty homes can create jobs in the construction and related industries, contributing to the local economy.
- Increasing property values: Renovating empty homes can increase the value of properties in the area, making it more attractive to investors and encouraging further development.
- Providing affordable housing options: Converting empty homes into affordable homes can provide much-needed housing options for people who may not be able to afford market-rate housing. This can help to address the issue of homelessness and improve housing affordability.
Similar projects to the Making Homes from House Project have been seen elsewhere in the UK. The national campaign Action on Empty Homes tracks the efforts of local councils, having developed a toolkit for cities to implement. They celebrate Empty Homes Week each year to spread awareness, with the latest edition coming to a close last Sunday (March 5th, 2023). The National Empty Homes Loan Fund is a scheme that provides loans to property owners to renovate empty homes. The loans are offered at low interest rates and are designed to encourage property owners to invest in their properties and create affordable housing options. The program has been successful in bringing many empty homes back into use and improving the quality of housing stock in certain areas. Other localised efforts, most notably Kent’s ‘No Use Empty’ campaign, have seen some success and contributed to the wider housing market.
Overall, these examples demonstrate how renovating empty homes can have a positive impact on the overall housing market in the UK, providing affordable housing options, improving the quality of housing stock, and contributing to the local economy. They also suggest that Preston’s Making Homes from Houses Project is likely to regenerate – or at least aid – the local housing market’s growth.
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