It is unacceptable that 86,000 young people will experience homelessness this year.
Tragically, that truth is matched by another bizarre, shocking statistic. According to the government, there are 205,000 long-term empty homes (‘long-term’ means over six months) in England alone.
This week is national Empty Homes Week.
This week is an opportunity to use momentum of this campaign to highlight the absurd paradox that we have people who desperately need homes, and homes that desperately need people to live in them.
Last week I sat down with Will McMahon, the new Chief Executive of Empty Homes, the charity campaigning to tackle the empty property scandal. He’s bringing an exciting passion and determination to the cause, and we’re eager to support their work. Worryingly, their research, and their close contacts with local authority empty property leads, suggests the problem is far, far worse than it even appears.
He spoke of the challenge to get local authorities to use the powers they have (or the threat of them) to challenge owners of empty properties to bring them back into use. Local authorities have been decimated over the past eight years and are struggling to meet statutory demands, let alone non-statutory ones – however important they might be.
But in the face of this resistance to change, young people are, and continue to become homeless, in their thousands.
At LandAid, we set ourselves the goal of providing 450 bed spaces by 2020 for young people who are homeless. We’re now about half way through, and have awarded grants that will provide 358 of those 450.
In just 19 months!
And many of these were formerly empty properties.
We’ve worked with outstanding and award-winning charities to renovate and refurbish unused empty properties, turning them into safe, secure homes for young people. Often, those same young people are involved in the renovation, learning skills that help them access work and apprenticeships.
We’re also working with developers like Cubex Land in Bristol, and nearly 20 other local businesses in their supply chain, to renovate a long-term empty property, which will provide homes for 11 young people at any one time. The finished property will be called East Street Mews. With creative thinking and some energy, a local eyesore will vanish, young homeless people can get housed, the streetscape is improved, and years of anti-social activity comes to an end.
The property industry clearly gets the housing crisis. It gets homelessness. Its support for LandAid has never been greater.
Empty Homes Week provides a wonderful opportunity to address two extremely pressing social issues with one fell swoop – to help LandAid tackle youth homelessness and address the scandal of empty properties.
Get in touch to find out how you, or your company can sponsor a home.
In light of the fact that we are also halfway through Steptober, the first property industry-wide step challenge, I would like to lay down the gauntlet: anyone who wants to undertake the challenge of seeing who can be the first to walk 205,000 steps - one for every long-term empty home - please get in touch. I can guarantee it will be worth the walk.