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					                                                                                                       July



                                                                                                       2006

THE EMPTY HOMES AGENCY
Monthly News Bulletin




Empty Homes Agency, 195 – 197 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 5NE
Tel: 020 7828 6288 Email: shashi@emptyhomes.com
Statements in this newsletter are for guidance only and the Empty Homes Agency will not accept liability for losses resulting from
reliance on them. Professional advice should always be obtained.
Table of Contents



1   A Word….
2   West Coast Housing Association: Let Your Empty Property Earn An
    Income For You
3   Vacant Property Protection: Ad Hoc Solutions
4   LAST MINUTE PLACES…Empty Homes Seminars…
5   What’s A PROD?
6   Thoughts on a week in which empty homes hit the headlines
7   Events
8   Resources
E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                                        1
A Word…
Jonathan Ellis, Chief Executive
Dear All,

This month, July, the new powers on private empty property contained within the Housing
Act 2004 finally become operational across the country. I thought it would be worthwhile
just taking time out in order to take stock of this development as the Empty Homes
Agency has put in so much effort, working with our partners, over the years to see these
new powers come into play for local authorities.

You may recall that the idea originated in the London Borough of Hammersmith and
Fulham where in a submission to the then DETR select committee inquiry into empty
homes in 2001 a novel idea around compulsory leasing of private empty property
was first floated. The Agency picked up on this idea in early 2002 and began running
with it hard as a campaign to re-engage Government interest in this issue.

With strong support from local authorities such as Southampton, Salford and
Sheffield, we pushed this issue very hard and, after initial support from the then
Housing Minister, Lord Falconer, it was included in the 2003 Sustainable
Communities Plan. We then went through what seemed like an agonising number of
public consultations on the issue to a point where we began to think that the issue
was running out of steam.

However, it was attracting widespread support from agencies as diverse as Shelter
and the British Property Federation, as well as cross party support in the House of
Commons. In May 2004 the Government suddenly announced that they were minded
to introduce an amendment to their own Housing Bill to introduce these new powers.
In November 2004 the Housing Act gained Royal Assent and Part 4 of the Act,
containing the new powers of Empty Dwelling Management Orders, went into English
statute law.

Since the Act became law we’ve been working with a number of agencies, most
particularly the DCLG and the IDeA in developing training materials and seminars on
these new powers. We argued at a very early stage that the guidance should not just
be around the powers, but around the wider strategic approach to tackling empty
property of which the powers were just one component.

We’re now delighted that this guidance is going out to local authorities shortly and
that the seminars will be offered to local authorities this month, starting on the 4 th of
July in Birmingham.



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We’ve also been having very positive dialogue with the Housing Corporation where
we want to work with them in their statement in their corporate plan of last year that
they want to support RSLs working with local authorities in using these new powers.
We are also talking to the Audit Commission at the moment about how the issue of
tackling empty properties could be incorporated into Audit Commission inspections of
both RSLs and local authorities. And there is an ongoing initiative with all of the
regional housing boards to ensure that empty homes features in the regional housing
strategy.

One of the critical reasons for this success was a close working partnership between
practitioners working for local authorities tackling empty property on the ground and
the Empty Home Agency working at a national level. We achieved this together
because we are working on a shared goal with our different perspectives adding
value.

I was reminded of this powerful combination when David Gibbens, from Exeter City
Council and myself attended a meeting of the South West Regional Housing Board. I
think that together we presented quite a good argument, David with his
comprehensive understanding of issues in the South West and myself contributing
from the national perspective. Hopefully we gave the Board enough to really begin
thinking about developing the potential of empty property in this region. We very
much hope that in the coming years we’ll see much more coming together between
practitioners and the Agency, adding value and bringing more properties back into
use.

The final point is that we’re always looking for new ideas, we were keen to embrace
and take forward the issue of compulsory leasing back in 2002, and if there are any
of you out there, frustrated campaigners itching to launch the next campaign, we’d be
delighted to hear from you… Watch this space.

With all best wishes

                                                                          Jonathan Ellis
                                                                        Chief Executive
                                                                 Empty Homes Agency
                                                                    Tel: 020 7963 6883
                                               Email: jonathan.ellis@emptyhomes.com




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                                                              2
West Coast Housing
Association: Let Your
Empty Property Earn
An Income For You

Westcoast Housing Association is a BME led organisation formed for the
business of providing homes for rent, education and health support to
vulnerable West Africa communities in the UK. We provide supported housing
and care for elderly people and those who need extra care. The association
has been leasing property from private landlords and property developers
since 2003, providing temporary housing for thousands of homeless families.
They have been operating in four other London boroughs for 4years and now
leases over 130 properties from private landlord’s developers and letting
agencies.

Temporary Housing is managed from Westcoast’s office in the London
Borough of Newham, where staff deals with everything from agreeing the
lease, managing the tenancy, collecting rent and overseeing maintenance,
through to making sure that everything goes smoothly when the property is
given back to the owner at the end of the lease.

David Brown and Aibi Erediauwa Westcoast Housing Association Acquisition
Managers will take the worry out of letting. Owners can be reassured that
leasing their property to Westcoast will mean that the rent is guaranteed
throughout the lease. One of the best things about the scheme is that we do
not charge landlords a management fee. Finding tenants and making
sure they leave at the end of tenancy is done for you.

Westcoast Housing will be working with Council, Developers and Letting
Agencies to bring some of the empty privately owner homes in the borough
back to beneficial use, by leasing them from the owners or letting agencies.
Instead of the property becomes a liability, which costs the owner money, the
property becomes a valuable asset earning rental income.




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David Brown and Aibi Erediauwa Property Acquisition Managers will speak to
landlords or letting companies who are considering offload stocks, I consider
all types of property. From flats and homes to blocks of flats.

Owners can ring us on 020-8522 4922 ext. 23 or call mobile 07950 706 520
to discuss the details of leasing property.

Westcoast Housing Association is working for families and people in need to
provide affordable housing.

Current Gas Safety certificate and an up-to-date fire certificate would be
required from landlords when taken over management of the property.

WE HAVE AN OPEN POLICY; PEOPLE FROM OTHER
NATIONALITIES CAN CONTACT US FOR HOUSING
NEEDS.




                                              For further details please contact:
                                                                 John Adesulure
                                               West Coast Housing Association
                                                              T: 020 8522 4922
                                                               M: 07950 706520
                                                      E: housing@wchal.org.uk




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                                                                         3
Vacant Property Protection:
Ad Hoc Solutions

It’s a sad fact, but your unoccupied property is at constant risk from break-ins, theft
and vandalism. Even internal problems – like leaks and burst pipes – can cause huge
damage if left undetected. But hiring security guards to patrol empty buildings is
expensive. That’s why Ad Hoc offers an alternative solution – one that is affordable,
logical and proven

Our          affordable         and community            friendly Vacant          Property
Protection Occupancy solutions is an alternative way to protect vacant properties
(example; offices, industrial/ commercial estates, houses etc) against opportunist
criminals (theft), squatters and internal problems - like burst pipes etc. that can cause
huge damage when left undetected.

We provide trained Guardians to 'house-sit' these properties and provide the eyes
and ears to safeguard and prevent them from damage and criminals.

As our name implies we can respond to the needs of owners within 24 hours just for
a fraction of the cost of a regular security service. Depending on the size of the
property (not number of Guardians) we charge a weekly management between £50
and £375.

We make weekly checks on the properties and will sent property owners a monthly
report on the status of the property to give them piece of mind.

When we deal with Industrial/Commercial estates we will install the necessary
temporary (mobile) facilities as showers and kitchen units for our Guardians to house
sit these properties. When the time comes that a new owner moves in
or redevelopment/ demolish projects kick off, we move out and you wont have had
any delay in your project or issues with the property while it was vacant.

All our Guardians are key workers and working professionals that have been
screened and trained to house sit your vacant property. They are house proud and
will keep these properties in ready to view condition.


More Information?
Go to http://www.adhoc.eu for more information. Or call us for an appointment 020
7300 7243. Our specialists are happy to visit to present the possibilities for your
property face to face.



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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                         4
LAST MINUTE
PLACES… Empty
Homes Seminars…
I am pleased to be able to announce details of the forthcoming joint Empty
Homes Agency and IDEA empty property seminars. There will be four
regional events in July and every local authority will be allocated two free
places. We have a fantastic line up of speakers including Brendan Nevin
Director of housing at Ecotec and the brains behind the market renewal
pathfinders, Dave Stott Head of Private Sector Operations at Manchester City
Council, and Alan Collet senior partner at Alsop auctioneers.

       Birmingham Tuesday 4th July
       Bristol Wednesday 12th July
       London Tuesday 18th July

       Leeds Wednesday 19th July


These seminars are part of the DCLG’s housing act implementation
programme and designed to help local authorities make best use of Empty
Dwellings Management Orders. We felt quite strongly that a days lecture on
how EDMOs work was not the best way of achieving this. So instead there will
be two sets of written guidance. The DCLG’s own guidance on use of
EDMOs, and a joint Empty Homes Agency IDEA booklet “ A Cure for Empty
Homes” that will cover all the approaches to getting empty homes back into
use that local authorities might take. The seminars support the publication of
these sets of guidance and give the opportunity to hear from leading people in
the field how local authorities can grasp the opportunity that new legislation
provides to get more empty homes back into use.



                                            For further details please contact:
                                                                 David Ireland


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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                             Local Government/Policy Adviser
                                                        Empty Homes Agency
                                                           T: 020 7963 6884
                                                           F: 020 7828 6288
                                          E: david.Ireland@emptyhomes.com




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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                            5
What’s A PROD?
Secretary of State Ruth Kelly MP has approved a PROD of publicly owned
empty homes in Liverpool after a community group raised a PROD. This month
we look again at what are PRODs and what you can do with them?

Did you know that under the 1980 Housing and Planning Act all members of
the public have the power to move a public request ordering disposal
(PROD)?

A PROD is an exciting but also so much forgotten power passed by
Parliament. It was conceived by the then Conservative government as a way
of putting pressure on public authorities to maximise use of their empty
property.

It gives members of the public power to request disposal and challenge the
relevant public authority to say what they are going to do with their property
and if they can’t come up with a good reason to then dispose of it and make
sure that it is put back into use.

Unfortunately schedule 16 of the Act excluded properties owned by the NHS
and the MoD but this is still a very very useful power. Below is a list of public
landowners that are covered by this legislation:

       Government Bodies, Local and Regional Authorities, and other
        departments owning Crown land.
       The Commission for the New Towns and the Housing Corporation.
       The British Coal Corporation, Civil Aviation Authority, and the Post
        Office.
       British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Broadcasting
        Authority.The
       British Waterways Board and National Rivers Authority.



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E M P T Y    H O M E S   A G E N C Y




       British Rail, London Regional Transport, and Passenger Transport
        Executives.

If you are campaigning and you find that a property you are targeting is
publicly owned you may want to consider raising a public request ordering
disposal (PROD).


How does it work?

If you know of an empty property that is owned by a public body, you simply
need to write to the Director of Planning for your regional Government Office.
They will investigate and find out why the property is empty. If there is no valid
reason for keeping it empty, the secretary of state has the power to order sale
of the property. This usually involves sale on the open market.


What should I do?

       You can complain to the Director of Planning at the appropriate
        Government Office. For contact details please refer to our website:
        http://www.emptyhomes.com/resources/briefings/briefings.html#prods

Do I need to contact the owner first?

           No.

What information should I provide?

       Give your reasons for making a PROD request.
       Say who you are.
       Say who you believe owns the property.
       Mention if you own adjoining property.
       Give as much information about the property as you can, so it is easy
        to identify. Provide an address and include a map or plan if possible.
       We will then ask the Government Office to act.

What happens next?

       The Government Office will contact the owner. They will find out as
        much as possible about the property and the owner's reasons for
        keeping it empty.
       The Secretary of State will decide whether the site should just be
        entered onto the Land Registers or whether an Order of Disposal
        should be made.
       If disposal is decided on, the owner will be given 42 days in which to
        make representations before a decision is made.
       Sale is usually on the open market - by auction, tender, or private
        treaty.
       You will be kept informed of the outcome.


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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                             For further details please contact:
                                                              Shashi Ioannides
                                                    Communications Manager
                                                         Empty Homes Agency
                                                             T: 020 7963 6881
                                       E: shashi.ioannides@emptyhomes.com




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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                            6
Thoughts on a week in which empty
homes hit the headlines

When the Empty Homes Agency first started talking about Empty Dwelling
Management Orders about three years ago it seemed like quite a radical idea.
We expected a backlash. But it didn’t come. Everybody we talked to, and we
talked to a lot of people, liked the idea. OK there was a feature about it in The
Sun where the columnist warned readers not to go on holiday in case the
council came round and filled the house with asylum seekers. But otherwise
the remarkable thing was what a broad consensus there was in support of the
idea.

The consensus continued all the way through the consultation period, the
housing bill, it’s passage through parliament and right up until a couple of
weeks ago the press reports were general favourable. Then the weekend
before last something changed. An article in The Daily Telegraph and
another in the Daily Mail reported the rather surprising story that the real
intention behind EDMOs was apparently for the state to take homes off the
recently deceased before their relatives had a chance to inherit them. It’s not
true of course; apart it from being nobody’s intention to do any such thing, the
Housing Act makes special provision to ensure that it can’t happen. (Homes
subject to probate are exempt until probate is resolved and for a further 6
months after that) Further press articles appeared during the week, the Times,
Independent and the Express all ran stories and opinion pieces in a similar
tone. Numerous local papers and radio stations ran items too. I also had the
rather unsavoury experience of being blogged around the bloggosphere by a
number of writers who, for my part in the development of EDMOs, referred to
me as a tosser, bigoted, evil, vile, vindictive, a communist, a fascist an idiot,
and a smart arse. Nice to be popular isn’t it. One charming gentleman even
suggested that I should be hung from a lamppost. You can see more on
recent posts on our blog here

Why all the anger? Are these worried owners of empty homes coming out of
the woodwork? Perhaps, but I suspect not. What seems to have happened is
that an untue story was published and the idea began to take hold that
EDMOs were really a land grab by the government. Despite this being untrue
too it has been repeated time and again. Yesterday I was asked onto a radio


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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




station to defend a Bedforshire Council that had sent a quite inoccus letter to
the owner of an empty home. This was presented as proof that council’s were
really conspiring to grab people’s homes.

These are challenging times to be working with empty homes. In this
atmosphere even small errors can become exciting material for the press.
More than ever it is important that we explain what we are doing and why we
are doing it. The Empty Homes Agency is challenging the press stories and
we are planning a new media offensive to put out the true story about empty
homes. Local authorities can help by explaining why they are working to bring
empty homes back into use and explaining what the impacts of empty homes
are . Think carefully about how you approach owners of empty homes.
Impersonal letters with implied threats of enforcement are rarely effective and
are likely to either end up in the bin or on the local radio phone in show. On
the other hand with personal contact and rational explanation most people
can see the logic and the need to bring empty homes into use.

But despite the recent coverage the issue hasn’t changed one bit there are
still hundreds of thousands of empty homes up and down the country, they
are still causing misery to the many people who have to live near to them and
they are wasting homes that many many people need. The need to tackle
empty homes has never been greater.

David Ireland


                                            For further details please contact:
                                                                  David Ireland
                                            Local Government/Policy Adviser
                                                         Empty Homes Agency
                                                             T: 020 7963 6884
                                                             F: 020 7828 6288
                                           E: david.ireland@emptyhomes.com




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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                 7
Events


                                            th    th   th   th
Empty Homes – Effective Approaches – 4 / 12 /18 /19 July 2006

For more information click on the link below:

http://www.emptyhomes.com/news/event/events.html#jul




                                       rd
National Week Of Action - Dates: 23 – 27th October 2006

For more information click on the link below:

http://www.emptyhomes.com/news/event/nwoa.html




* * * * * * * * * * * * *
For more info please look at our website:
http://www.emptyhomes.com/eventspages/events.htm




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E M P T Y   H O M E S   A G E N C Y




                                                                          8
Resources


New Low Demand Pages – The Low Demand pages have been
redesigned…have a look here….

http://www.emptyhomes.com/help_you/projects/ldp/low_demand_project.html




Unlocking The Potential : Empty Homes Blog – If you haven’t been there yet
and given your two pennies – what are you waiting for?...

http://unlockingthepotential.blogspot.com/




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