Fill 'em up - The Big Issue launches empty buildings campaign

In parts of Britain, for every homeless
family there are TEN homes lying empty.
 It's time for action - it's time to fill 'em up

The Big Issue is urging local authorities to address Britain's chronic housing problem by exploring the potential usage of the nation’s abundance of empty buildings.

This week, we launch The Big Issue Fill 'Em Up campaign. We believe empty buildings offer a great chance to increase housing supply. We want to see the following:

• More support and funding for community-led empty homes projects
• More public bodies engaging with community projects ready and willing to make the most of empty buildings
• More homeless people getting the chance to work on refurbishment projects

In parts of Britain, there are ten homes lying empty for every homeless family. The latest estimate from the Empty Homes Agency is that there are more than 635,000 empty homes in England alone.

Last week, former Manchester United star Gary Neville captured the public imagination by showing a flexible, common-sense willingness to use a resource which the country has in abundance: an empty building.
Neville told a group of homeless people they could squat in a building he owns before development work begins. This proactive approach – even if on a short term basis – focused minds and prompted a lot of conversation.

Filling empty homes is not easy. It's true that many of Britain’s derelict buildings are now in bad condition. Homeless people often have complex needs, requiring a lot of support even once they have a roof over their head. And yes, the ownership issues around unused second homes, vacant shops and public halls awaiting redevelopment are complex.

But there remains a staggering need for housing in this country and an embarrassment of unused buildings are just waiting to be given new life. Gary Neville’s gesture shows small steps to provide shelter don’t actually need to be that difficult, with a bit of flexibility and imagination.


Frustrated by all the boarded-up buildings in your town while homelessness is on the rise? Here are six ways of doing something about it:

1. You can report empty properties to your local authority – many councils now have dedicated empty homes officers who would welcome photos showing the condition of the building and its address.

2. Save Britain's Heritage has a register of Buildings at Risk highlighting properties that are vacant and in need of new owners:

3. You can find more details on how to bring an empty home back into use from Empty Homes Agency – In Scotland, Shelter Scotland run a service allowing people to report empty homes and receive advice about bringing their empty home back into use – 0344 515 1941 or email

4. One London company – – even gives you vouchers and a small proportion of the resale value of any empty house you spot that they manage to refurbish and sell.

5. If you’re inspired by Gary Neville’s gesture towards the homeless men in Manchester,Depaul UK’s Nightstop scheme allows volunteer hosts to provide emergency accommodation for homeless young people.

6. Give us new ideas – tell us your solutions for transforming public buildings in you town, city or village. Send them to or tweet @bigissue.

The above article first published on in Oct, 2015.