The Guardian reports that the increased demand for small properties due to the cut in spare room subsidy has prompted Hull City Council to bring over a hundred empty properties back into use.

They had been boarded up for years:

“The properties, known as “link bedsits” are scattered across the city. They form “bridges” over footpaths punched through terraces of houses. The shelter offered underneath made the bedsits magnets for antisocial behaviour and, at a time of social housing oversupply in the late 1990s, most were boarded up and decommissioned from Hull council’s housing stock. With demand for one-bedroom flats now soaring, the council and Riverside housing association (which took over North Bransholme estate from the council in 2010) are returning the bedsits to use as revamped one-bedroom homes.”

Crucial to making sums add up has been the New Homes Bonus which also covers derelict homes that are restored. Cllr John Black, a Labour councillor and Hull’s Cabinet Member for Housing, says:

“You could see from day one, without any traps, the benefits for the city. It was a win-win situation that we could immediately get on with doing up the empty council properties.”

The report adds that “the council will use the funds to bring many more homes – including hundreds of derelict small Victorian terraces – back into use over the next few years.”

On their website the Riverside Housing Association discloses that they have been short listed for a housing innovation award for this, adding:

As part of the North Bransholme stock transfer in November 2010, 31 link bedsits were transferred to Riverside, most of which had been empty for over 10 years.  The link between the two terraced blocks of houses or flats, created an archway over a footpath which attracted fly tipping and congregation of youths, as well as vandalism and graffiti.  The initial view was to demolish the bedsits due to non-demand and no viable option to retain and renovate. However, due to the welfare reform changes and the introduction of the Under Occupancy Penalty, Riverside decided to retain and convert some of these properties.

Of course The Guardian’s account includes various grudging references reflecting their hostility to Government policy in this area. But it is not just happening in Hull. 93,000 long term empty properties have been brought back into use since 2010.

This is not the only option for people in Hull seeking to downsize. Tthere are plenty of people in overcrowded properties who would be keen to swap. However this is clearly a positive initiative in widening choice and reducing crime and decay. Both the New Homes Bonus and the Spare Room Subsidy cut are coming together to ensure more sensible use is made of our housing stock.