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Executive Leader Cllr Brenda Warrington

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Councillor Brenda Warrington, Executive Leader of Tameside Council

Ending the Scourge of Homelessness in Tameside

Friday, 20 September 2019


It’s no secret that we are currently in the middle of a homelessness crisis. Since 2010, almost every statistic we have has shown an inexorable and worrying rise. We’re at the point now where it’s estimated that, according to the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics, up to 50 people died on the streets of Greater Manchester in 2017 alone.

But while rough sleeping, and the dangers that come with it, is the most visible and tragic symptom of homelessness, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the human misery and waste of potential that occurs when people are forced to go without a roof over the head. Many people who become homeless may never end up on the street, or appear on any official figures. They instead live on the sofas of family and friends, in squats or in other temporary, insecure or unsuitable accommodation. These “hidden homeless” mean that the actual number of people who are homeless is, in some way, shape or form, probably far higher than the official figures suggest.

There are several reasons for this increase in homelessness, ranging from personal issues like domestic abuse and relationship breakdown, to structural issues since as ten years of austerity and the rollout of Universal Credit. However, one factor that most people agree contributes to the homelessness crisis is far simpler. There simply aren’t enough homes available.

The obvious solution is for the government to build more homes, or (even better) to give local authorities the funding and power to encourage development in their own areas. That’s something we absolutely need to start, but it doesn’t do much for the people who need our help right here and now. Despite the housing shortage we face, there remain a large number of homes in England that have nobody living in them. In Tameside our figures show that there are more empty homes in the borough than there are families in temporary accommodation.

That is nothing short of a moral and economic scandal. There is absolutely no justification for homes standing empty, often for years at a time, in the middle of a homelessness crisis. Many of these empty homes are also in a state of disrepair that blights communities, contributes to decline and, when they appear in groups, has the potential to turn once-desirable areas into places that people would rather avoid.

 

Over 90% of these empty homes are owned privately, and we’ve committed ourselves to bringing as many of them back into productive use as possible. Working closely with one of our housing association partners, Ashton Pioneer Homes, we offer a successful scheme known as “Lease and Repair”. Owners taking part in the scheme enter into a six-year long lease agreement with Ashton Pioneer Homes, who will then renovate the property, pay the council tax, provide management and maintenance services and find a tenant. Ashton Pioneer Homes receives a management fee, the Council get an empty home put back onto the market, and the home owner benefits from a steady rental income and a potentially huge rise in the value of their property through repair work.  

Even at this early stage Lease and Repair is showing real potential, with a number of tenants and owners praising the scheme for its ease of use and quality of the renovated accommodation. Now we’re raising awareness by hosting an “Empty Homes Drop-In” session at Ashton Pioneer Homes on Margaret Street in Ashton on Wednesday 25th September. Between 2-8pm our trained housing officers will be on hand to explain the process and what we can do to help you bring your empty property back into use.

Whichever way you look at it, the housing numbers as they stand at the moment just don’t add up. Making better use of empty homes in Tameside has the potential to be a quick and easy win that will help us end the scourge of homelessness for good.

 

Posted by: Executive Leader


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