Empty Homes campaign unites homeless people's orgs, faith groups

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 19:42:54 -0800 (PST)

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FWD  BBC - Tuesday, February 16, 1999



     250,000 homes have stood empty for more than a year

     Campaigners have unveiled a battle plan to fill
     England's 750,000 empty homes, which exist alongside
     hundreds of thousands of homeless people.

     They aim to:

     Reduce homelessness
     Halt the growth of inner-city ghost towns
     Stop green space from being eaten away by new housing development
     Stop the blight caused to adjoining properties by vacant houses

Homeless people's organisations, environmental activists and church groups
are among those participating in the campaign co-ordinated by the Empty
Homes Agency, a charity funded in part by the Department of the Environment
and the National Lottery.

'National disgrace'

Empty Homes Agency chief executive Ashley Horsey described the current
situation as a "scandal".

"With 250,000 homes standing empty for more than a year, and more than
100,000 households accepted as homeless each year, it is a national
disgrace that half of the local authorities in England do not have a
credible programme for putting this wasted resource to use," he said.

Mr Horsey said the campaign was "calling up on people to do whatever they
think is necessary to get message through to elected representatives".

He said while the campaign did not actively advocate the squatting of empty
properties, it would not oppose it where it seemed appropriate.

The campaign aims to:

Identify empty homes
Put pressure on owners to fill them
Encourage local authorities to bring empty council-owned properties back
into use.

Mr Horsey acknowledged that some of the properties might be empty because
they were in run-down areas where people did not want to live.

"There will be specific issues relevant to local areas. However, it is all
too easy for people to throw up their hands in horror and say there is
nothing we can do."

He cited examples in city centres including Liverpool, Manchester and
Newcastle, which have seen successes in using formerly unwanted buildings
to meet housing needs.

"Over the past five years, we have worked with local authorities and other
organisations to fill 150,000 empty homes."


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