Bishop of Rochester commends ‘Houses into Homes’ initiative to reduce levels of empty housing

On 12th February 2015, Lord Dubs to ask Her Majesty’s Government what further steps they are taking to reduce the number of residential properties left vacant by their owners. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a supplementary question:

Bishop of RochesterThe Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, the contributions already made have underlined the importance of this and the potential for tackling some of the issues in the housing market and the lack of housing. While this may be a relatively small part of that, is the Minister aware of schemes such as the Houses into Homes initiative in Wales, which uses recyclable loans mainly to private individuals and has managed to return some 2,000 empty homes to use since 2012? Do the Government have further plans to encourage such initiatives, particularly those that are at a local level and involve private individuals and the voluntary sector?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate highlights a key area. As I alluded in my original Answer, we have made £2 million available to support innovative schemes run by community groups, councils and housing associations, such as the one he mentioned. Even in my own patch, we have St Mungo’s Broadway, which receives £372,000 from the empty homes community fund and has now bought back 14 empty homes in the local area. The Government are keen to see how we can encourage such innovative schemes at a local level.