Recognising, promoting and enabling a simple idea – ‘local communities bringing empty properties into use to meet housing need and improve neighbourhoods’.
The EHCGP has demonstrated that grant aid can enable local people to generate substantial impacts through their involvement in bringing empty homes back into use. This can be empowering:
'As a local community trust; it opened our eyes to the huge impact investing in property can have in a deprived area: Creating quality homes for local families Significantly improving the quality of life of neighbouring residents, whose lives had been blighted by living by a vermin ridden, dangerous property. It demonstrated our commitment to the regeneration of the area.' (Moat House Community Trust)
‘As things stand - it's enabled us to develop a functioning Empty Homes Scheme, through which we have the funds, knowhow, contacts, systems and networks to identify, refurbish and rent out empty properties. We benefit from a number of leases (typically 5-7 year) and own one property outright, which gives us some financial stability and enables us to invest further in our empty homes and social enterprise lettings activities’. (Developing Health & Independence (DHI)
'The multiple benefits (PDF) of this activity include training and employment opportunities, reduced neighbourhood blight and fear of crime and individual well-being through participation.' (Jon Fitzmaurice, Self-help-Housing.Org)
It can also have a magical effect on the sustainability of grass roots organisations by providing them with a sustainable asset base and income stream: ‘The magic of housing as both a physical asset and a source of rental income is being rediscovered as a basis for sustainable community-led action in a period in which organisations dependent on revenue support have found survival an increasing problem.' (David Mullins)
This success has been recognised by local authorities such as Hull City Council – 'partnerships are crucial, especially with community organisations who know and understand their local areas'. (Hull City Council)
Success is also recognised by Tribal, the agency who allocated the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme for the Government.
'The most apparent benefit of successful project delivery is the availability of decent affordable housing. Organisations have however reported other benefits to project delivery, including the provision of training and apprenticeships, an increased asset base, safer neighbourhoods and raised organisation profile. It can be argued that value for money should not just be measured in terms of pounds and pence, but that the added value delivered by projects should also be a factor in grant assessment.' (Tribal End of Programme Report on Empty Homes Community Grants Programme 2011-15)
Global recognition was provided by the World Habitat Awards for 2015/2016 for housing projects that are ‘innovative, replicable and sustainable’ in which two self-help housing projects in the North of England were winners at the award presentation in Quito in October 2016.
'Canopy and Giroscope are pioneers in a movement of UK housing providers called 'Self-Help Housing', which has gained momentum and grown significantly in recent years. Together they provide a model that has inspired many others. Today, over 100 organisations in the UK follow their Self-Help Housing model. By renovating empty homes to provide affordable housing to disadvantaged people, the organisations tackle multiple issues for local communities.'
Video: Self-help housing in the North of England
The World Habitat Award Statement references 'two regional evaluations of the £50 million Empty Homes Community Grants Programme (EHCGP), the the Midlands, and in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside (where Canopy and Giroscope are based)' by the Housing and Communities Group at the University of Birmingham.