There are nearly two million families on the housing list and more than a million empty homes across the UK – and David Cameron is announcing today that he wants the former to be offered accommodation in the latter.

He and shadow housing minister, Grant Shapps, are launching the policy in Denmark Hill, south east London, today and the Evening Standard carries the following excerpt of what Mr Cameron is saying:

"At this incredibly difficult time, it is vital we focus resources
on helping families and people struggling at the sharp end of this
recession. But we must do so in a way consistent with the long-term economic and social changes Britain needs. That’s
why the Conservatives will temporarily relax Labour’s stringent rules
and regulations making it easier for the affordable housing sector to
bring some of the one million empty homes into use. This will
provide real help now to the two million families currently on the
social housing waiting list, and the one hundred families that are
having their home repossessed every day."

The report states that the
policy would aim also to "help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour
associated with empty housing, and prevent an over-correction in house
prices by putting a floor in the housing market".

I’ll add further details here once the party releases more on the policy.

Update: The proposals have been unveiled as the "Empty Property Rescue Scheme" and will temporarily relax current restrictions in order to encourage use of some existing empty properties for the benefit of those on the waiting lists.

According to the party, the scheme will encompass the following measures:

  • Encouraging housing associations or others to pursue a variety of models for bringing empty properties back into use;
  • Allowing short term tenancy agreements of, for example, 3 to 5 years;
  • Aiming to provide tenants with an option to buy or obtain shared equity in the future;
  • Partially suspending Design and Quality Standard requirements – for the existing empty homes – to enable the EPR programme to flourish under these special circumstances; and
  • Removing the requirement for the empty property stock to comply with Sustainability Codes (although the sustainability of all homes used under this scheme will be increased by making them eligible for installation of smart meters and ensuring that they benefit from our £6.5k ‘Just Do It’ energy efficiency retrofit programme10).

Jonathan Isaby

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