National visit to Plymouth during National Empty Homes Week


Helen Williams, CEO of the national Empty Homes Agency, meets Councillor Penberthy and others at Hoegate House.

Helen Williams, CEO of the national Empty Homes Agency, meets Councillor Penberthy and others at Hoegate House.

Plymouth’s efforts to use empty properties to address housing needs have received national recognition.

On Friday 5th December, the Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency, Helen Williams, visited Plymouth, as part of National Empty Homes Week.

The Empty Homes Agency is currently carrying out research into how more empty commercial properties could be brought back into use for people in housing need.

In recognition of its track record in the delivery of this type of conversion the Agency has approached Plymouth to assist it with this research.

The Council is currently working in partnership with national housing charity Chapter 1, to convert a commercial property in Hoegate Street, which has remained empty since it was used as a Job Centre.  When completed in spring 2015, this conversion will provide the City with 30 one and two bedroomed affordable rental flats.

Ms Williams met with Cllr Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Cooperatives, Housing and Community Safety, to gain insight into Plymouth’s wider empty homes activity. She accompanied him on a site visit to Hoegate Street to allow her the opportunity to view the progress and gain information for the Agency in order to showcase this project as a good practice example for other authorities.

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Cooperatives, Housing and Community Safety, said “This is an excellent example of partnership working. The conversion has been financed by Chapter1’s successful bid to the Homes and Communities Agency, its own funds with a contribution from Plymouth City Council and will deliver much needed affordable housing from previously wasted space.

“The Council recognises that its empty homes activity has an important role to play in the delivery of housing and I am delighted that this project has been identified by the Empty Homes Agency to showcase during National Empty Homes Week.”

Empty homes were highlighted as an issue in the Plymouth Fairness Commission report and Plymouth City Council is committed to addressing the issue, with an aim to bring 150 empty homes in the city back into use over the next three years.

Rachel Sanders, Chapter 1’s director of business development, said: “At Chapter 1 we believe in changing lives one by one. For many people that journey begins when they have a suitable place to call home.

“The building in Hoegate Street is our first major development in Plymouth, but is a significant part of Chapter 1’s Empty Homes programme which is supported by funds from the Homes & Communities Agency. Over the next two years we plan to invest £6M in the south and south west of England.”

Helen Williams, Chief Executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said: “It is good to see the way in which Plymouth City Council is working to bring empty properties back into use. With so many people across England looking for an affordable home it makes sense to make the most of the buildings we have and we hope to inspire other areas by spreading knowhow from successful examples such as Hoegate Street.”