Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by East Lancashire Housing Forum (EMP 19)


  East Lancashire has severe problems of stock condition and vacancy levels, particularly in relation to private sector housing. Four of the six Districts are amongst those nationally that have very high scores on the DTLR "low demand indicator". Empty homes are part of a complex cocktail of issues at the heart of neighbourhood decline and social exclusion. It follows that a solution to these issues will go hand in hand.

  The housing market issues summarised in this note have been substantiated by a major piece of research carried out by DTZ Pieda in 2000, and copies can be provided if necessary.

  The East Lancashire Housing Forum invites the Select Committee to visit this area to view the problems and issues at first hand, and to hold some of their hearings here.


  It is crucial that the Select Committee consider the nature of housing markets on a sub-regional level in order to fully ascertain the complexity of the empty homes issue. The East Lancashire housing market is characterised by low demand for both public and private sector housing, particularly pre 1919 terraces evidenced by declining house prices, disrepair (22 per cent of properties in East Lancashire are considered unfit) and, in some cases, abandonment. This is contrasted with a reasonably healthy demand for new build housing, particularly new build starter homes.

  Many inner urban areas are in decline and the current supply of housing in these areas does not meet the aspirations of the community. It must therefore be acknowledged that the housing market is a key dictator of the incidence of empty homes within an area and that the housing market is inextricably linked to the wider issues of employment, health, economic activity and sustainability.

  The Forum strongly supports current efforts to consider a new designation "Market Renewal Area" as it is only through such an approach that new processes and resources can be brought to bear on the problem of empty homes, as part of a substantial effort to tackle failed housing markets.


  Starter homes are frequently built and sold requiring only a £99 deposit. Young people are therefore encouraged to move into the owner/occupied sector with little financial forethought. It is not uncommon for these people to find, a year later, that they cannot afford to maintain their property therefore necessitating a return to the public/private rented sector. This has a significant impact on market stability.

  The community's housing aspirations must be considered in the context of their impact on the housing market.


  Whilst the reality is that cross-tenure empty homes are caused by a number of factors including the condition of properties and the local economy, it is of concern that empty homes can too easily be sited as the consequence of bureaucratic incompetence.

  Although it is incumbent on every Local Authority to strategically address the issues of empty homes within their district, success in this area is directly dependant on a clear, comprehensive, realistic and therefore sustainable central government strategy which directs resources to those areas which suffer from acute low demand, an oversupply of housing, disrepair and economic decline.


  Funding for RSL's is focused on development rather than reinvestment. In order to tackle the incidence of empty homes within this sector, adequate funding must be made available. As landlords of older terraced (low demand) housing within East Lancashire, RSL's, like Local Authorities, require specific funding for demolition or re-modelling to provide homes which meet the aspirations of the community.

  A further reduction in VAT for reinvestment work should be considered as the criteria for eligibility has been found to be too stringent.


  Significant financial support is required to facilitate demolition where this has been identified as the most appropriate course of action. The scale of this demolition will vary from selective to large-scale, depending on circumstances in different parts of the sub-region.


  From the outset it must be acknowledged that any action identified will be extremely costly to deliver and that sustainability must be a key consideration in the process.

David Riley

Housing Needs & Strategy Manager

Burnley Borough Council

17 September 2001

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