31 August 2017
This is our recent response (designed to comply with Medway Messenger’s 250 word limit for their letter’s page). A excerpt from this letter was printed in last week’s Medway Messenger.
Medway Council’s new Homelessness Prevention Strategy is to be welcomed as a first step towards improving the situation for the homeless locally. However it is disappointing that the Council is not being more proactive in delivering social housing solutions, which could start with more work towards bringing empty homes back into use. This would also be a green response to housing need by reducing pressure to develop new land.
We appreciate that central funding has been cut, but our Council almost seems ready to give up trying in this area. An information leaflet for owners of properties which have been empty long-term (the only direct action to result from the consultation) seems woefully inadequate in comparison to face to face engagement. The reinstatement of the council post of Empty Properties Officer could be considered, a role perhaps combined with that of the “Rough Sleeping Coordinator” mentioned in the document, linking work with those who have potential properties with those who desperately need them.
It is unfortunate that the Repair and Leasing scheme is no longer available. In Ireland this enables Local Authorities to spend up to £40,000 on repair work up front in return for an empty property being made available to social housing (with repayment of the loan out of rental income) .
Our Councillors and MPs should put pressure on the Government to reinstate this scheme and ensure it is adequately funded. A scheme like this would also provide additional employment for local builders and could support apprenticeships.
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