Wednesday, 12 February 2014

#LoveEmptyHomes – a call to action for the housing sector

Empty Homes Wales is a project set up by United Welsh to help owners of Empty Homes to find bespoke solutions to bring their properties back into use. We offer signposting to finance, expert advice, referral to relevant services, full tenancy management, project management and so on. Anything that makes it harder for the owner to leave the property empty and unloved!

We work proactively with Local Authorities to offer services that mean we are able to get involved before enforcement action is taken against the owner.

This week I am busy promoting #LoveEmptyHomes – a timely campaign primarily aimed at reminding those owners of Empty Homes that their houses need love. Working with Local Authorities in Cardiff, Caerphilly and Blaenau Gwent, I am sending over 300 Valentine’s cards to ask them to work with us for the sake of the community (if not their own bank balance!).

At the same time, over on Twitter we are stimulating discussion about the future of Empty Homes. Why not head over and join in, using the hashtag #LoveEmptyHomes. Please donate a tweet to the campaign via Thunderclap.

For me, this Empty Homes campaign has really highlighted that while there are many partners and supporters, what we really need to see in order to make a difference in the numbers of Empty Homes brought back into use is more housing associations getting their hands dirty along with United Welsh.

I’ve been asked regularly 'What do United Welsh actually get out of this? Is it just for show?' Well, in short: no, it’s not. Working in this sector, and as members of CHC, our bread and butter is 'investing in communities and changing lives'. And when I see a previously abandoned property that has been refurbished and has a family living in it, I genuinely feel that I am achieving that. But strategically this project helps us to meet our business aims and objectives - it’s not loss making, and it’s not a charity. The financial viabilities stack up. They have to, at the Board's continued insistence!

But we can’t do it alone. When United Welsh set up the Empty Homes Wales project it was always with the intention of encouraging more housing associations to get involved to cover more diverse geographical areas. I am in early talks with proactive housing associations in other areas of South Wales, who are tentatively looking to start working in the same way as us in their own zoned areas. We are keen to share any information and give the necessary support to get the Empty Homes Wales message out there.

So, if you have anything to contribute, any ideas or comments, then please get in touch using #LoveEmptyHomes to see what we can achieve together.

Michala Rudman, Empty Homes Project Officer
United Welsh

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