Thursday, 28 January 2010

Opening Doors To New And Empty Homes

The renewal of Reading's Empty Homes Strategy is starting to have some practical effect. Two local charities have started to work together with the council and landlords to ensure potential homes don't go to waste and have a negative impact on local communities.

Reading Single Homeless Project and The Forgotten British Gurkha (which is based in Reading) have taken on agency status to help bring empty properties back into use by people who may be lacking a stable home environment.

Lead councillor for housing, Cllr Deborah Edwards, explained, "Reading does have a number of homes that are empty and need investment so they can be brought back into use."

In addition, the deposit guarantee scheme is enabling more younger people and families get onto the first step of the housing ladder.

LibDem parliamentary candidate for Reading West, Cllr Daisy Benson is pleased that her local campaign efforts as chair of the housing scrutiny committee have woken the authority up to some of the problems being experienced by residents. She adds that "housing is not just about bricks and mortar: neighbourhoods matter too."

She also picks out the recent announcement of a national empty homes policy which will be a major plank of her party's general election manifesto, saying this is "great news."

Her colleague Reading East PPC, Cllr Gareth Epps, is also excited by the manifesto pledge:
"It's a real win-win. It creates jobs; makes much better use of resources (and is sustainable in the true sense of the word) and embodies fairness."
He estimates the total figure of empty properties in Reading is about 2,500.

Labour's Minister for Housing, John Healey MP, recently visited Dee Park and the Chatham Place development to highlight investments being made in new housing stock.

He also discussed with representatives an additional £3.1m spending on new care homes at the Avenue School site.

Cllr Mike Orton said, "Care for the elderly is a top priority and this scheme will allow people to settle in and live independently in their own home."

Rachel Eden was also there to show her support. She argues that "council-owned and managed housing is more accountable and preferable to housing association when possible."

Wokingham PPC and leader of the opposition LibDem group on Wokingham borough council, Cllr Prue Bray is equally concerned about the 1-star service offered by Conservatives in this area.

However one additional consequence of the housing shortage is that temporary emergency housing remains dependant on volunteers as charitible fund-raisers.


Oranjepan says:
Housing is a big issue for many in the congested south-east, so making sure money is spent on making better use of the land and buildings we have is sure to be a big vote-winner.

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