Thursday, 14 January 2010

Nick Clegg unveils bold plans to tackle empty homes

Great news today: Nick Clegg, Vince Cable and Sarah Teather have set out radical new plans to reduce the number of empty homes in the UK.

Nick has set out plans which will help bring thousands of empty homes back into use (providing more homes for people that need them).

These plans will also help create around 65,000 new jobs.

What a great idea!

David Ireland, Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency, the charity which is leading the national campaign for action on this issue responded to the news as follows:

"This bold policy would transform the scale of England’s empty homes crisis, enabling a very significant proportion to become affordable homes for people.” He added, “This sends out a challenge to the government and other opposition parties to say how they would help create more homes from England’s empty property.”

This is an issue really close to my heart.

People who know me will know that I have been campaigning on this issue since 2006 in Reading.

I led a successful campaign to get Labour-run Reading Borough Council to take action to bring homes back into use.

As a result of our campaign the Council now has an empty homes strategy and RBC issued a press release today which revealed that homes in Whitley, Norcot and Caversham have all been renovated and sold to become family homes as a result.

There is a long way to go in Reading but the Lib Dem plans set out today would help reduce the number of empty homes much more quickly.

You can visit my Redlands blog for more details on our local empty homes campaign.

Some facts:

There are around 500 long term empty homes in Reading and an estimated 5,000 people waiting for affordable housing to rent.

This is a scandal. And the number has increased this year due to the impact of the recession.

Families in Reading are having to wait on average 20 months for family-sized social housing to become available.

As a result, thousands of families and children in Reading are currently living in badly overcrowded conditions.

I am campaigning to get help for these families and to get the Council to build more family-sized social homes.

Nick Clegg's plan would make more of these types of houses available for families to rent in Reading and it would help reduce the pressure to develop sensitive sites for new housing - a big issue for many people living in West Berkshire.

Labour's policies for tackling empty homes have not worked and the recession has made matters worse here in Reading.

Parts of West Reading empty homes are a real problem: notably Battle where there is a particularly problem of empty flats above empty shops.

I know from my campaigning in Redlands how an empty house can also blight an area - as in the case of 35 Christchurch Road - a source of frustration to residents for miles around.

Often the reason people leaves their homes empty is because is it cheaper for them to do so. Under the proposals outlined by Nick Clegg today, people who own these homes will get a grant or a cheap loan to renovate them so they can be used: grants if the home is for social housing, loans for private use.

I am delighted Nick Clegg has put action to tackle empty homes at the heart of the Lib Dem manifesto for the upcoming elections and I look forward to seeing how it goes down on the doorstep.

Check out this video for more info:

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