Thursday, 05 March 2015

Government appoints empty homes champion

TV presenter George Clarke has been appointed as independent adviser to the government on bringing empty homes back into use.

Mr Clarke, who recently presented Channel 4’s The Great British Property Scandal, has been appointed as ministers try to bring some of the country’s 720,000 empty homes back into use.

His role will include:

  • Raising public awareness of the benefits of bringing empty homes back into use and encouraging people to report empty homes in their area
  • Encouraging councils, housing associations and voluntary groups to identify innovative and good ideas and sharing this across communities
  • Challenging Government and other public bodies to ensure publicly-owned homes are not left empty
  • Exploring whether current plans for demolition in councils could be scaled back

Mr Clarke said: ‘There are hundreds of thousands of empty homes that could and should be saved from the bulldozers and refurbished. 

‘I totally support the building of new homes when it’s necessary but not when it’s cheaper and quicker to refurbish empty homes than to build from scratch.  It can be kinder to communities and the environment – and it makes sense in these tough economic times.

‘I care passionately about this subject and I’ll leave no stone unturned in my efforts to find a solution to the problem and get these houses back into use for the families who need them.’

The appointment comes on the back of £150 million of government cash to be used to bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing.

Andrew Stunell, communities minister, said: ‘I am delighted that George Clarke has agreed to work with us as we pull out all the stops to end the national scandal of empty homes.

‘For every two families needing a home, there’s a property standing empty – properties that, all too often, attract squatters, vandalism and fly-tipping.  That’s why over the past year, I’ve made £150m available to bring these homes back into use.

‘George’s appointment as our independent adviser on this issue will give these efforts a real boost, and I look forward to seeing how communities benefit from his help and advice, and seeing more families benefiting from a secure, stable home as more empty properties are brought back into use.’

Grant Shapps, housing minister, said: ‘George Clarke has been a phenomenal campaigner against the scourge of empty homes.  His popular Great British Property Scandal programme raised the issue up the agenda. 

‘I’m pleased to report that the number of empty homes has fallen in the two years since this government came to office. Now we hope to accelerate that work further with £150 million of investment and George Clarke as our empty homes adviser.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • Stephen Gibson

    Great appointment. Kudos to Shapps on this one.

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  • Eric Blair

    He'll certainly be needed to fill the void (no pun intended) created by this government's ruthlessly Thatcherite council house sell-off. That's the real scandal.

    The trouble is I doubt that bringing empty homes back into use (good as the idea is) will address that problem, so for me Mr Clarke's appointment is populist window dressing; bread and circuses for the public.

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  • Melvin Bone

    Surely any step in the right direction should be welcomed Eric?

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  • This is just what we need, another shameless self publicist with no knowledge of public housing or poverty or deprivation or benefits. The upside for Grant Schapps is that they now have someone in the firing line who is even more crass and stupid than he is

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  • Eric Blair

    @Melvin Bone - yes, up to a point I think that's true. I am also passionate about filling empty homes, and it's an interesting subject. If George Clarke is successful then great! But I think it's a bit rich for the government to promote this while reducing social housing stock, and that's what sticks in my throat.

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  • sounds like a remake of : " Gis a job mate- I can do that" Alan Bleasedale's Yosser in - boys from the black stuff

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  • I always new that TV personalities would one day save the world. What other reason is there for their existence?

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  • Eric Blair

    Yes interesting isn't it? Government by popular culture. You don't have to be an expert... just a famous face. Simon Cowell for Prime Minister!

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  • Tulisa for social media guru...

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  • careful it's no a byword for 'under occupancy' and unless they put a halt to incentivising right to buy, it's a mockery as stock diminishes whilst immigration and homelessness increase. bang go the holiday cottages and those deemed underoccupied. this won't only affect the social sector but across the board. meanwhile, all those imposing such measures continue to rattle about in huge properties all over the place at our expense.

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