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Empty Promise gets Tory vote of support

The Conservative Party has thrown its weight behind Inside Housing’s campaign to slash the number of empty homes across Britain.

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Writing in this week’s issue, shadow housing minister Grant Shapps gave the Empty Promise campaign, which launched last week, his full backing.

The campaign has three major objectives. It is calling for VAT to be cut to 5 per cent on home refurbishment and renovation; grant for social landlords to buy and repair empty properties; and clearer guidance to help councils use empty dwelling management orders to free up homes.

Mr Shapps said he ‘warmly welcomed’ the campaign.

‘Not only is leaving homes empty a waste of valuable housing for those in need, but long-term empty properties contribute to environmental and social problems.’

The Tories joined a growing band of backers of the campaign to help landlords tackle the UK’s 940,000 empty homes. The Chartered Institut of Housing, homelessness charity Crisis and the Empty Homes Agency all support the call for more to be done to halt the rising number of empty homes, which are expected to top 1 million in the UK this year.

Jenny Edwards, chief executive of Homeless Link, the umbrella body for frontline homelessness agencies in England, also added her organisation’s support to the campaign this week. ‘At a time when clearly there are more and more people at risk of homelessness, it is important that we do not have people without homes and homes without people,’ she said.

Members of the public struggling to access housing often raised the issue of empty homes with homelessness charities, she added.

‘When they walk around their local area and see so many houses that are not inhabited, it doesn’t seem right.’

Labour MP David Kidney, who has pushed for more action on empty homes in Parliament, was also on board. ‘I definitely support such a campaign,’ he said.

Joining Mr Kidney from the Houses of Parliament were Baroness Maddock and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch. Guinness Trust Group and LHAASRA are among the housing associations supporting Empty Promise. Individuals from across the housing sector have also joined the fight by emailing their support and signing a petition on Number 10’s website.

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