BII is the social investment arm of The Big Issue, lending money to community organisations and charities that work to prevent poverty, help people into work and provide training. The £10m will go to small groups that will employ the long term unemployed, veterans and out of work young people to turn empty houses into homes for rent and shared ownership.
The more sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that 400 isn't very many — and it's spread over 10 years, so that's 40 homes a year. There are around 80,000 empty homes in London, though of course not all of these have been abandoned. A shared ownership scheme announced by City Hall last week loaned £40m to Gentoo Genie to provide 2,000 new homes (at a cost of around £20k per home); this renovations project works out at around £25k per home (though is positively cost effective when compared with the First Steps Challenge Fund, getting a loan of £180m for 4,000 new homes, working out at £45k per home). And it's still way cheaper than estimates made by Lewisham council in 2012, of £40k each to renovate five houses earmarked for sale but occupied by protesters.
We've also had it confirmed by BII that the homes will be rented out under the 'Affordable Rent' scheme. If you follow our housing coverage you'll know we're not fans of that, as it means rent can be charged up to 80% of what you'd pay on the private market. Social rent (what we'd think of as council housing, usually 30%-40% of local market levels) is definitely on the way out.
But this isn't about just the money or even the number of homes brought back into use (though it'd be great if larger organisations could take note and start doing similar things on a grander scale). It's the smart combination of tackling several of London's problems at once — housing, rough sleeping and homelessness and jobs — that we like. Just do it at properly affordable rents and we'll give an unequivocal thumbs up.