The Great British Property Scandal
So here’s what it’s all about:
After just over 24 hours more than 52,000 have joined the campaign
It’s been a pretty tough project but that backing plus the following have made it worth the blood, sweat and tears: before the season even started transmitting this multiplatform commission prompted a debate about the senseless waste of empty homes in the House of Commons. I’m just back from an event in Parliament with George Clarke fronting our C4 delegation to rally more MPs behind the initiative, including the committed Lib-Dem Andrew Stunell and the shadow minister for Housing Jack Dromey.
Here’s the extract from Hansard:
29 Nov 2011:
Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): It is an honour to have secured this Adjournment debate on empty homes. It is an issue that I and many Members on both sides of the Chamber have raised in recent weeks and months. Indeed, only last week, three Members asked about empty homes during the ministerial statement on housing.
I became involved in the issue of empty homes because of my deep concern about overdevelopment in my Colne Valley constituency in west Yorkshire. It is home to the lovely towns of Slaithwaite, Marsden, Holmfirth, Honley, the Huddersfield suburbs of Lindley and Birchencliffe and many more beautiful areas. I was concerned that our beautiful Pennine countryside was set to be dug up for new identikit homes.
The idea of green fields being developed is bad enough, but it defies all logic to be doing it while thousands of existing empty properties are being left to rot. In fact, my local council, Kirklees, has just voted for a local development framework that will impose 22,470 new homes in the district over the next 15 years, with some going on green belt. I say, bring Britain’s empty homes back into use first.
There is a groundswell of support for the empty homes campaign. I have to admit that I am a big fan of Channel 4 shows such as “Grand Designs” and “Restoration Man”. The presenter of the latter show, George Clarke, will be telling the nation about the scandal of Britain’s empty homes in a forthcoming series on Channel 4 next Monday and Tuesday evening—that is the plug out of the way.
What is an empty home? Homes are left empty for a number of reasons—for example, when they are between tenants, being refurbished, in probate or when the owner is in care or hospital. For the purposes of this campaign and this debate, however, we are primarily talking about long-term empty homes. These are properties that are stuck empty, and I believe that getting those houses back into use could be a quick and relatively inexpensive way of providing more housing.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): Like my hon. Friend, I have been in contact with George Clarke and Channel 4, and I am happy to add a second endorsement of the programme on empty homes that they are developing. He, I and they are appalled at the scandal that 250,000 properties [see how the Government manage to make 100,000 disappear – just like that?] are empty when millions of people are on waiting lists, anxiously looking for homes and unable to find them. As well as being eyesores and as well as easily falling into disrepair, empty homes are often an expensive menace to communities and public services, attracting antisocial behaviour, squatting and vandalism.
The Government know very well that we need to build more homes, more quickly, and the housing strategy statement made in the House by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government last Monday shows real earnest intent. At the same time, we have to make better use of our existing homes, as that is better for communities, for the environment and for the families who have the new home to live in. We have been working on ways to bring empty homes back into use, and tackling those homes is one of the key pledges that we made in the housing strategy.
Add your name to the campaign to fill Britain’s empty homes here
Here’s the season trail:
It’s Thursday night now, 72 hours on, and we have over 91,000 signed-up supporters on the site. Way beyond my expectations. 100,000 is a key number as that enables a parliamentary debate to be triggered. Turn, little counter, turn.