Cooperative to reuse empty homes

Teviot estate could soon have new residents, Pic; Loop Zilla

A housing association in Bow is to bring long-term empty homes back into use for people in urgent need of housing.

Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association) has teamed up with Tower Hamlets-based Phoenix Community Housing Co-operative to provide homes for single adults who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Nine studio flats intended for short-term use are being launched on Spey Street, Teviot Estate.  Bow and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick, will officially open the homes on Thursday 26 January.

David Ireland, the Chief Executive of the Empty Homes agency, is pleased that the co-operative is on board: “Phoenix Housing co-operative are one of a number of brilliant community groups that help young unemployed people gain building skills through rennovating empty property. That in itself would be great, but that it produces new affordable housing as well makes this a truely remarkable scheme.”

The properties were originally transferred to Poplar HARCA from Tower Hamlets council as part of a stock transfer following a ballot in the community. They were then given to Phoenix Co-operative to be renovated and managed, as bringing the houses to a descent state for re-letting would be more costly for the charity.

Over fifty volunteers and co-op members have worked for a total of 1200 hours over a period of six months to make the houses habitable again, said Kathryn Johnson of Poplar HARCA. The scheme also served as a training project, providing volunteers with a platform to develop their skills and work experience.

Funding for the scheme came from a loan and community financing provided by the co-operative, as major commercial banks rejected requests for credit.

This is the second renovation project in Poplar undertaken by the Phoenix Housing Co-op and Poplar HARCA partnership. In April 2009, four homes were refurbished in Bow and subsequently managed and rented out by the co-operative.

The initiative comes as positive news in a borough where over 20,000 people are in the queue for social housing and forms part of Phoenix’s strategy to unlock the reserve of empty homes in Tower Hamlets.

Under their Housing Plus project, the co-op seeks to identify and revive unused empty properties in an effort to meet the local housing need and reduce levels of local homelessness.

According to figures compiled by the charity Empty Homes, there are over 1,600 long-term empty homes in the area. As reported by EastLondonLines in December, Tower Hamlets was the seventh-worst offender in the country for empty housing association homes with 878 unoccupied at the last count.

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