This week is National Empty Homes Week which aims to shine a light on the high number of empty properties across towns and cities in the UK. It is estimated that there are 200,000 empty homes across the UK. Some of them have been empty for 6 months, others for a number of years. For each year a property stands empty, the problems mount. Damage to the property from the elements or from graffiti and vandalism are common issues. Long term empty properties in areas of low value housing often become uneconomical to renovate and bring back into use.
Before I worked for the Virgin Money Foundation, I ran a housing charity that purchased and refurbished Empty Homes.
One of the properties the charity bought was a large, detached, Victorian house that stood at the entrance to a park. It had a sweeping staircase and stained glass windows. It had been converted into 5 flats by the previous owner who had gone bankrupt and left the country. The property had stood empty for three years. There was wet and dry rot, graffiti, fly tipping, all of the windows needed replacing, and the whole property needed refurbishing.
The charity purchased the property through a mixture of charitable grants, government-backed Empty Homes Funding and loan finance, then renovated the building and rented the flats out to local, young people needing affordable housing.
This Empty Homes Week, the Virgin Money Foundation has announced a grant from its Ripple Fund to Back on the Map.
Back on the Map is a Sunderland based charity which has set itself the task of purchasing and refurbishing empty properties in Hendon, holding them in Community Ownership and renting them out to local people who are in housing need.
The charity has also taken on the local library via an asset transfer to invest further in the local community’s infrastructure.
Virgin Money Foundation’s grant, alongside Sunderland Council’s loan finance, will help this visionary charity purchase empty properties and make a real difference to their local community.
Nancy Doyle-Hall, Executive Director