Are we missing unlocked opportunities in abandoned buildings?
Never has an issue been so widely felt and yet so difficult to define. What is the housing crisis? Is it soaring house prices or rising homelessness? Overcrowded families or twenty somethings who can’t get on the housing ladder?
If we can define what we mean by the housing crisis, and our solutions, then our case for more public investment becomes stronger. The Homes for Britain campaign is a spark for much needed debate. We absolutely need to make the case for much needed public investment in housing but crucially we also need to bring forward fresh ideas. Showing true drive and commitment to addressing housing issues innovatively will help us prove our worth.
I see big unlocked opportunities in abandoned buildings. The Black Country, where I work for whg, is full of former industrial and commercial buildings crying out for a new lease of life. Near my office is an old flour mill recently converted successfully into highly desirable private flats, an excellent example of just what can be done with a bit of imagination.
Then there are abandoned residential buildings. The Empty Homes campaign reckons there are 70,000 in the West Midlands alone. The Government launched an empty homes programme to much fanfare after the election. Sadly it is now widely considered a failure in the sector but it should be remembered that nationally more than thousand homes were brought back into use.
Last year saw another glimmer of hope with news of a grant programme for refurbishing vacant buildings to house young sharers. The modest but extremely innovative programme aimed to refurbish old commercial buildings but disappointingly it has yet to get off the ground.
Now is our opportunity to show Britain just what we could do with more of their cash. It’s time to get our thinking caps on.
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