United Welsh has been actively engaging its partners to address the Empty Homes agenda in an attempt to rid our streets of some 26,000 estimated long term empties which blight communities across Wales.
Michala Rudman a dedicated Empty Homes Project Officer was employed in order to further this activity; including providing advice to homeowners, liaising with the Welsh Government on their loan scheme and working directly with Local Authority partners on enforcement. This partnership approach has been so successful it has led to the development and delivery of a Wales wide initiative called Empty Homes Wales http://www.emptyhomeswales.co.uk.
Driven by housing association United Welsh, EmptyHomesWales.co.uk is a site to bring together information, advice and advocates for bringing all our empties back into use. It is a place for owners to go to get information and help to tackle their empty property, find finance packages, discounts and offers; it also provides an anonymous easy way to report empty properties, and partners can link up in order to best tackle this ever increasing issue.
When compared with the 70,000 estimated families or individuals on social housing waiting lists in Wales these empties could assist 37% of those waiting to find a home; added to the current welfare reform fallout in Wales where it is clear as a country we do not have the houses available to help those in need these 26,000 properties could provide much needed new old family homes.
The Empty Homes Wales initiative has already been backed by Government Advisor and empty homes expert George Clarke who addressed the annual Welsh Housing Conference TAI in March; he visited one of the empty properties brought back by United Welsh for the Salvation Army – effective partnership working in action. Huw Lewis, Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty also pledged his support signing up to ‘do what we can’ in order to tackle this issue. These pledges were just two of over 150 collected at TAI which shows the amount of support this topic has.
Michala Rudman, Empty Homes Project Officer said;
“Two heads are better than one and three better than two, and so by creating this unique partnership framework Empty Homes Wales, where all parties can join and assist with bringing these empties back into use in Wales, we stand a better chance of achieving all our goals; providing more family homes and tackling the 26,000 empties that sit on the streets of Wales. We hope that more will join our plight and pledge their support to do what they can.
“I also appeal to all those who showed their support at TAI signing our pledge to contact me to discuss what you or your organisation can do to combat empty homes with Empty Homes Wales. We can all work together – together we can achieve more.”
#EHW What can you do?
A new scheme which enables Gwent Police Community Support Officers to submit evidence against problem neighbours has improved life for residents in Ebbw Vale.
Gwent Police are working with a number of housing associations in Ebbw Vale – Tai Calon Community Housing, United Welsh and Melin Homes – to anonymously gather evidence from residents about neighbours who are committing crime and anti-social behaviour.
In responding to reported problems, Community Support Officers (CSOs) ask residents who wish to remain anonymous about their experiences. They then record details in their notebooks before preparing a third-party statement on behalf of the individual.
These statements can then be submitted as evidence to the courts and can lead to problem tenants being evicted from their homes.
A 36-year-old woman from Waunlywd, Ebbw Vale recently resigned her tenancy after legal proceedings were launched against her using statements submitted by CSOs about her behaviour.
In Ebbw Vale crime was down by 20.1% last year (January 2012 – December 2012) compared with the same period in 2011, meaning 368 fewer victims.
Antisocial behaviour was down by 43.7% last year (January 2012 – December 2012) compared with 2011, meaning 775 fewer victims.
Inspector Dave Morgan, of Ebbw Vale neighbourhood Policing Team, said “This new approach allows evidence to be brought before the courts that victims of crime or anti-social behaviour otherwise may be too frightened to give.
“CSOs do not have the power to take statements from members of the public like police officers, but they can make notes about people’s experiences in their notebooks and then submit statements themselves relaying what residents have told them.
“Residents deserve the right to a quiet life and I’m delighted that this work we are doing in partnership with local social landlords and their tenants is helping to improve people’s lives and make them feel safe in their communities.”
A resident of Waunlywd, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We are very happy with the support and assistance we received while Gwent police and United Welsh dealt with a resident who was causing lots of problems in the area.
“Residents on the estate were kept informed throughout the entire process – I’d like to thank officers and housing staff for listening to our problems and taking positive action. We have noticed a difference in the street already.”
Sian Weeks, Senior Anti-social Behaviour Co-ordinator for United Welsh said: “Working in partnership is important in creating cohesive, happy communities. This work is resulting in tenancy management of the highest level; the results of successfully ending tenancies where required and safeguarding our communities is of paramount importance to us.
“Anti-social behaviour is certainly not a social housing issue. We deal with homeowners and those renting in both the public and private sector.
“Whatever the tenure of the victim and the perpetrator, this partnership will help to tackle anti-social behaviour in a firm but fair way for the benefit of the whole community.”
Andrew Myatt, director of Communities and Housing for Tai Calon Community Housing, said: “We are determined to do what we can to help tenants affected by anti-social behaviour. Our neighbourhood teams are working alongside Gwent Police to publicise this initiative and to make it a success.”
Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of Melin Homes, said: “Our partnership with Gwent Police is an essential part of our approach to community safety and greatly benefits resident satisfaction with the area in which they live.”
If you have any concerns about crime or anti-social behaviour in your area, please contact Gwent Police on 101 to report incidents or visit the website at www.gwent.police.uk to find contact details for your local policing team.