Partnership plan on use of empty homes

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

MEMBERS of the public angry at empty houses and flats despite widespread homelessness should become 'major partners' in the move to end the national scandal of wasted housing, according to a report today.

It suggests each local council should develop an 'empty-homes strategy' involving housing associations, chambers of commerce, landlords and local newspapers, to target the country's estimated 864,000 unused homes, which it values at pounds 23bn. But the report, No Losers, New Users from the National Housing and Town Planning Council and the Empty Homes Agency, says ordinary people have an important role to play.

A section containing advice to professionals from Jeff Hanna, empty-homes officer for a pioneering project by Reading Borough Council in Berkshire, says: 'Your other major partners must be the public. You can make them your starting point: rather than tie up staff time in hunting for empty homes .. ask the people living in your town/city/district to tell you where the empty homes are.

'You won't find out the address of every empty home, but you will find out which cause most outrage,' he says. 'This source is priceless and enables you to channel your limited resources to the worst first and be seen to be doing so.'