Urban Vision, a joint venture between Salford City Council, Capita and Galliford Try, has supported Salford City Council to reduce the number of empty properties in the city by 57% in six years. As a result, Salford, which has the fastest growing population in Greater Manchester, has been awarded around £55m in New Homes Bonus funds from the Government.
In 2010 there were 6,237 vacant properties in Salford, with 3,761 classed as “long-term” empty. That number has been reduced to 2,658, meaning Salford has one of the highest rates of empty homes reductions in the UK.
Councillor Kelly, Lead Member for Adult Services, Health and Wellbeing at Salford City Council, said: “Following a decade of strong economic growth, including £2.6bn of private sector investment, we have a flourishing jobs market and are attracting more people who want to live, and work, in the area. However, like many UK cities, we also have areas of deprivation so there is significant demand for affordable housing.”
The Council’s plans state that Salford needs nearly 35,000 new homes by 2035 to keep up with demand.
Councillor Kelly (Salford City Council) continued, “In order to sustain our socio-economic growth and meet the objectives set out in the Council’s strategy, we created an empty properties team and drew on the support of Urban Vision for consultancy on all areas relating to land and property. This ensured we had the best blend of talent available to address the challenges we faced and turn empty spaces in the City into homes.”
Urban Vision provided a variety of services to support the initiative including: completion of the acquisition process; valuation advice; managing the disposal process of the property, creating development agreements to ensure that the property is redeveloped to a suitable standard and brought back into use.
Barry Pilkington, partnership director, Urban Vision, said: “Bringing empty properties back into use is quicker and more cost-effective for the tax payer than building new homes. Importantly, regeneration also improves neighbourhoods blighted by rundown, derelict buildings and unlocks more value that the whole local community can benefit from. We have been working with Salford City Council for 12 years and this was a hugely rewarding programme of work to support.”
The Council was also able to use new regulations under the Local Government Finance Act 2012 to charge more Council Tax on empty properties and order their sale, a process supported by Urban Vision.
When we set out on this project our aims, together with Urban Vision, were to halve the number of empty homes in Salford, increase housing supply, reduce the problems associated with empty properties and generate additional income through Council Tax revenue. It’s testament to the partnership that we have had such good success and we remain committed to continuing to build on this work.
Lead member for adult services, health and wellbeing, Salford City Council
Salford City Council helped Seedley and Langworthy trust, a not-for-profit organisation, to secure £458,500 from the Government’s Empty Homes Communities Grant Programme for the purchase and repair of five empty properties, delivering 14 beds to the city’s affordable rental market.
Salford City Council brought together a partnership of the not-for-profit organisation, council officers and Urban Vision staff to identify the required long-term empty properties, negotiate their acquisition and bring them back into use.
A locally-based construction company that provides training and employment opportunities to disadvantaged groups was then instructed to start the extensive refurbishment programme of those properties, enhancing the social value of the scheme.
A housing association was then instructed on a three-year lease agreement to let all the properties, providing much needed, well-managed family homes. Finally, tenants were fully vetted and hand-picked from the Council’s waiting list to ensure those in greatest need were homed first.