I can’t help but wonder, how is it plausible that we are in the middle of a housing crisis when there are over 200,000 homes sitting empty across England? That’s around fifty billion pounds worth of property just lying dormant or derelict. Of course the answer is not a simple one but a culmination of many factors. The point is, what can be done to redress the situation? In Medway, only 0.72% of housing stock are deemed long term vacant dwellings. These are dwellings which have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for over six months. According to KCC’s 2017 vacant and empty dwellings report, the total number of these properties across Kent and Medway totals 5,816. Four Kent districts account almost half of the county’s long term vacant properties, that being Thanet, Dover, Canterbury and Shepway.
Nationally, those 200,000 long term vacant properties make up around 0.85% of the total housing stock. In Medway we are slightly below that with 0.72%. Percentage wise that’s low, particularly when compared to Thanet with 1.135% and Dover with 1.17%. But numbers wise, Medway’s 817 vacant properties is second only to Thanet:
It is a position that needs addressing. So how can those 200,000+ homes nationwide be revived and utilised? The answer seems to come in the shape of a number of schemes which have been specifically created to transform unused properties and resurrect them into livable homes. This is done through a variety of interventions such as interest free loans and grants, the terms of which state that the property must be rented out once renovation is completed.
There are several of these initiatives already in play across the country. For example, Barnet Council are offering “Empty Homes Grants” to owners. They can apply for £15,300 for a one-bedroom property, £20,400 for two bedrooms and £25,500 for three bedrooms or more.
Kent’s own scheme – No Use Empty (NUE) – recently won ‘Outstanding approach to regeneration’ at the UK Housing Awards. Since starting in 2005, the scheme – which is delivered in partnership with 12 district councils – has regenerated over 5,000 properties across the county. What a great achievement!
Unfortunately I can’t see any signs that Medway are part of this scheme. But I’d loved to be proved wrong so if anyone knows differently, then please do let me know.
What I love about these innovative schemes is that there are so many ways they benefit local communities, even as simply as offering young people work opportunities through associated apprenticeships. They are also a great opportunity for landlords looking to invest and renovate.
Nationally our housing shortage is still in deep water. The stats from 2017 showed a 2.6% rise from the previous year in the number of empty homes – the first increase since 2008. Something else that should be considered and is a big factor in this number in Kent is holiday homes. Kent Online reported that there are approximately 13,000 houses in Kent and Medway that are left empty for at least part of the year. The reason for the high number is our coastal proximity and therefore houses thousands of holiday and second homes, that are only used in the summer months. Many are static caravans which have planning restrictions only allowing them to be occupied for a percentage of the year. But leading homeless charity Porchlight’s chief exec wants something done to change that and I can see why.
Generally I think we need to do more to encourage regeneration and support these types of schemes to help owners bring valuable homes back into use. Have you made use of the Kent scheme? How did it pan out for you? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, call on 07944 726676 or on LinkedIn or Facebook to tell me about your experience.