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
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
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
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
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.
Housing Needs & Strategy Manager
Burnley Borough Council
17 September 2001