Sunday, 2 December 2012

Little Boxes & Big Fat Wallets

A plea from Stravaiger John:

"There are hundreds of thousands of properties, residential, commercial etc. standing empty across Britain.

Would it not make more sense to take over and renovate these before building anything else?

People in real need of a home could be given a government loan if they were prepared to take over a property and do it up themselves, as could community groups and social housing associations.

This would surely be a better solution than having speculative developers wrecking the countryside."

No John, that would be too much like common sense, which as we all know is something only common people have.

Respectable HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals, to those who matter) don't use common sense, common decency, or anything else common to think with, they use their wallets because that's all that matters, going forward.

A commenter responds, "Yes ... As the law stands an owner can leave their property empty for ever as long as they maintain it! I know cos we have one around here that has been empty for 15 years and I wrote to the council and they said there was nothing they could do unless it was derelict!"

But is this true? I don't reckon it is.

So, sorry to say I think the council may be lying ... haha ... surely not?!?

I heard functionaries discussing this at a "Neighbourhood Partnership" meeting once, talking about all the slippery tricks that property owners use to avoid facing up to their responsibilities. Presumably the legislation - like a lot these days - was inadequately drafted, either by accident, or call me pessimistic, borne out of long experience, by design.

This is what one useful website has to say on the matter:

"Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) were introduced by the Housing Act 2004 and the powers subsequently made available to local authorities two years later.

A substantial body of technical information exists on how they are supposed to work, but to date very little practical help based on the experience of those who have actually used EDMOs has been available. We hope this guidance goes some way to filling that gap.

Drawing on the practical experience of empty property officers across the country, we have attempted to distil the most useful and important advice available. The guide includes a flow chart, a step-by-step guide to the process, top tips, pitfalls to avoid, detailed advice notes on each stage, and a set of model documents to use and adapt to your own circumstances."

I agree with both Stravaiger John and his commenter, there are hundreds of thousands of buildings out there that could be brought into use, or better used, given the political will, but I fear that that is what is lacking. With the plutocratic, kleptokratic crony government that we are groaning under now it makes far more profit for them just to hand their mates among the big feudal landowners (yes, they're still alive and kicking - especially in Devon) and the big housebuilding consortia some nice fat contracts.

There's also the issue of VAT which, despite long complaint by us "little people", is still extorted on refurbishment materials and work, but not payable on new build.

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