What links a suburban house in south London and the architect behind the Palace of Westminster?
What links a suburban house in south London and the architect behind the Palace of Westminster? The answer is the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s unprecedented £60 million to rescue the capital’s abandoned, derelict and blighted buildings. One property being considered on the list to be redeemed is Britain’s only surviving example of a concrete house, situated off Lordship Lane in East Dulwich, designed by Charles Barry Jnr, whose father was responsible for rebuilding the Houses of Parliament in the 1840s.
By 2011, the mayor will have invested new funding to bring more than3,400 empty homes back into use. London boroughs have now received over £39 million from the mayor. In addition he has promised a further £21 million in 2010/11 to fund a range of practical measures to encourage owners to repair and reoccupy empty homes, to meet his ambitious aim of reducing the proportion of long-term empty homes in the capital to just one per cent. This amount is three times more than was invested during the last three-year funding round. Its impact could be multiplied were we able to invest part of the London Homes and Communities Agency’s National Affordable Housing Programme into bringing empty homes back into use.
Empty homes are not only a waste of a valuable housing resource, at a time when waiting lists have doubled in the capital they can also blight neighbourhoods,attracting vandalism, creating local eyesores and spoiling the built environment. As well as providing much-needed affordable homes in the capital, the funding will support an extensive repairs and renovations programme, boosting London’s ailing construction industry. The mayor’s focus in London is on the very worst abandoned and derelict buildings and his aim to turn them into family homes is backed by a raft of practical action. In addition to the big ticket funding, we are also working closely with the London boroughs to audit all long-term empty homes, to give us the information we need to target funding at the buildings that need it most. It is also vital to remove financial incentives to leaving homes vacant, including the empty homes council tax discount, which is still being offered at a maximum by half of London’s boroughs councils.
In the last housing market downturn of the 1990s, the number of empty homes soared. With the current recession beginning to bite, the Inside Housing campaign couldn’t have come at a better time – a campaign that the Mayor of London enthusiastically backs today.
Richard Blakeway is the Mayor’s director of housing