Newspaper article: Bristol Post
An article by our local newspaper, Bristol Post. Published in print and online here http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Social-housing-plan-offices/story-19417539-detail/story.html
(Name correction: Hari Beales, not Bowles)
28th June 2013
Social housing plan for empty offices
EMPTY office blocks could be transformed into new social housing under a plan put forward by a group of campaigners.
Abolish Empty Office Blocks intends to launch a “community bond” to raise money for some of the 60 acres of unlet offices buildings in the city.
Members of the group hope their plan can help ease Bristol’s housing crisis by providing affordable, sustainable, community-owned housing which cannot be sold off.
The group’s three board members are looking for investment in the “common sense” project to revitalise derelict buildings and reduce the council housing waiting list.
Tony Crofts, founder of Stones- field Community Trust who also worked on the Manifesto for Bristol campaign, told the Bristol Post that the project could help thousands of people who are priced out of housing in the current market.
He said: “13,860 council houses have been sold off by Bristol under Right to Buy, transforming them from affordable homes into high-cost speculative investments.
“As a result, Bristol now has a housing waiting list of 14,750. These are not scroungers, they are people on ordinary working incomes who cannot afford to buy or rent homes in a greed-driven market.”
He said that by registering a co-operative Community Interest Company the group could launch a Community Share to raise money to buy empty land and unlet office buildings and convert them into affordable homes.
He said: “It is our long-term ambition to replace those council houses with new, energy-efficient affordable homes with permaculture gardens, owned on behalf of the community, that can’t be sold off.
“We hope people will invest in this project to set up a new Peabody-type trust and make Bristol a decent city that houses its people.
“This isn’t socialism, it is common sense. People with money need to think.”
The Abolish Empty Office Blocks project is run by an number of people who are Quakers in Bristol.
Mr Crofts said: “I must stress that it is not an initiative of Bristol Area Quaker meeting.” He added: “There is a history of Quaker individuals making initiatives to improve housing in Bristol.”
The Abolish Empty Office Blocks board includes Tony Crofts, Jim Kinnaird, founder Mina Road Housing Co-op, and Hari Beales, a permaculture and community expert. Chris Askew, an architect, is also working with the team to develop the project.
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