18 Oct 2016

Empty properties being brought back into use

Bristol City Council is bringing empty properties back into use as temporary accommodation for vulnerable families.       

The council has 20 properties that are currently being repaired and readied for use as housing for people at risk of homelessness.

Two properties are already being occupied by families who would otherwise be housed in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Another ten properties are also being considered to see if they too can be bought in to use as temporary accommodation. A further 15 are waiting to be inspected.

The aim is to provide a quick solution to prevent people ending up on the streets and reduce the council’s reliance on private sector providers and the associated costs.

Councillor Paul Smith, Cabinet Member for Homes and Communities, said: “We made a clear manifesto commitment to halt the sale of any future council properties at auction, and by opening up these houses, we have made some real progress to help deal with Bristol’s homeless crisis.

“We have gone through our empty properties and we now have 20 that are now going to be available to homeless people and families.

“There is a pressing need for temporary accommodation, from which we can then help families to move on to more permanent homes.

“We are working closely with Bristol Together to bring these properties back up to a lettable standard, while also offering opportunities to people who have previously been in prison.”

One area of focus is the use of empty council housing that may previously have been sold at auction. If such accommodation can be brought up to good standards within reasonable cost and timeframes, it will be provided directly by the council as temporary accommodation.

Properties that are in need of major or structural repair will not be considered for the scheme.

The council is in the process of releasing six additional properties to other registered providers who will use them to try out new methods of helping to meet housing need.

They will be taking on houses which need more repair work to provide homes for people with a range of needs including individuals with mental health issues and refugees.

The council is proposing to grant longer term leases at nominal rents and in return the providers will undertake the necessary repairs and manage the properties.

The council are working with Bristol Together, a charitable organisation which carries out repair and refurbishment works, creating full-time jobs for people who have been in prison.

The work being carried out ranges from redecoration and new flooring to electrical and gas safety work, minor repairs and clearance of properties and gardens.

Matt Gutteridge, project manager for Bristol Together, said: “Our key focus at Bristol Together is to provide meaningful employment within the building trade for ex-offenders. We have over the years seen a significantly lower re-offending rate with Bristol Together employees compared to the national average.

“We think it's down to giving people a real opportunity to work but also something to aspire to in terms of learning a trade which they can use to branch out into other things in the future. 

“Our work with the council is a key partnership for us. Being able to bring empty homes back into service is a really satisfying thing to do, but knowing that families are benefiting from this partnership is a real bonus.

“We're excited to continue our partnership with the council and doing our best to see re-offending rates drop as well as tackling some of the housing challenges we have as a city.”