In the middle of a recession that in the UK is predicted to worsen, it might seem very difficult to consider that there could actually be an upside – but I believe there is.
I was watching a program last night on Channel4 about the scandal of houses that have been left empty now for up to twenty years in some cases. In many cases they are good quality Victorian two up, two downs that were emptied with a view to demolition and replacement with houses considered to be more suitable for family needs today. However, because of the downturn in the building trade some years before this current decline and reducing funding for local councils, they have remained empty and boarded up, despite the UK suffering one of the greatest housing shortages since WW2. These houses cover an area the equivalent size of the city of Leeds – which is pretty big and cost taxpayers £millions per year just to keep empty.
Given how homelessness is also growing daily it is a national scandal but now a number of key players are working very hard to change the situation, not only by getting a local council on board but by actually renovating and modernising some of the properties to prove that they can indeed be more than fit for habitation in the 21st Century.
I don’t think that this would have caused such an outrage and been such a powerful driver for action if it weren’t for the recession and the pressure to find more housing. Times of crisis push us to think again about what is possible – a bit like the wartime spirit of “make do and mend”. So this definitely feels like the upside of recession. The added bonus is that if these houses can be renovated and lived in again, a sense of community might also return to the areas. Another bonus could be that developers will stop circling round our Green Belt like hungry vulchers – and we might even end up keeping some of our “green and pleasant land” for a bit longer!
If you feel strongly about this campaign then you can read more here and join the 62 thousand plus people who have already signed the petition.
The photo is courtesy of Jeanne Boleyn. All the houses have now been renovated.