Beeston empty homes conference looks to social ventures

More than 100 people came together at the Greenhouse, Beeston for a Leeds Empties ‘call to action’ event to explore how to bring back into use some of the 5,000 long-term empty homes across the city.

Organised by Leeds-based social enterprise Social Business Brokers, the event saw TV architect and Government empty homes advisor George Clarke launch a pledge-a-thon where more than 20 local and national businesses pledged to support empty homes initiatives in Leeds.  Workshops explored various themes including social enterprise and self-help approaches to empty homes, and opportunities for green retrofit.

Rob Greenland, co-director of Social Business Brokers said:

“There’s lots of good work already happening around empty homes in Leeds but the nature and scale of the problem – 80% of empties are privately owned and more than 5000 homes empty for more than six months – means that we need a range of new social ventures need to tackle the issue.

“The empty homes issue is one for us all as a city.  It’s not just a problem that we can leave to the Council to sort out. At the heart of what we do is the idea that where they exist, solutions will be collaborative.  No one business model, no one organisation, no one sector can solve big, complex social issues on their own.”

Leeds City Council had a key role in the day with the Council’s chief executive Tom Riordan, and deputy leader Peter Gruen, both speaking.  A workshop led by the council’s head of housing partnerships detailed the council’s current approach to empty homes and invited people to get involved in helping to bring more empty homes back into use.

Greenland added:

“Various themes emerged from the day including social enterprise, self-help, building a local supply chain of local small businesses and opportunities for training and employment.

“Our plan is to develop these ideas further taking a collaborative, civic enterprise approach.  We hope the council will continue to be involved and that third sector organisations – in particular Leeds Community Foundation and Construction Yorkshire – will take a lead in certain areas.  We also plan to ensure that the businesses that pledged support for Leeds Empties on the day continue to be involved, helping to break down barriers for people who are struggling to work out what to do with their empty home.”