I am a civil engineer who has renovated a few properties in the past. I know there are a lot of vacant properties out there, which is a shame for people looking for a house and for the neighbors/people who live nearby.
I want to set up a non-profit homeless business, will it work? Dave Fishwick responds
I have an idea for a homeless non-profit business, but it would require many organizations/individuals to work together, but I think it would be a win-win within a community.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and I’m not entirely sure if it will work, but with a lot of hard work and working together, I’m sure it’s something that can be done.
So, in a nutshell, the idea is to buy empty properties, renovate them perhaps using the unemployed, low-skilled people, ex-criminals, early school dropouts, etc. Thus turning unsightly buildings into homes.
As I’ve said before, it’s an idea I’ve had for a while, but I’m not sure where to start and how to move forward.
Ideally, I would like to quit my job and work in some capacity at the new company. Any help/thoughts would be gratefully received. via email
Dave Fishwick, Business Physician for This Is Money responds: I think it’s a great idea with potential benefits both for people struggling to get their foot on the property ladder and for local communities suffering the adverse effects of vacant properties in their midst.
Many areas in the North of England have rows of vacant houses. Some coastal areas of Lancashire and the North East are particularly affected, at least in part, by a lack of quality local employment and other social problems.
I left school with no grades. However, I got a job on a construction site as an apprentice builder, which gave me great experience and skills that helped me later in life.
After earning my original money in the auto industry, I began reinvesting some of that money in low-cost properties in Nelson and Burnley. I started buying terraced houses for under ten thousand pounds, and then there were hundreds available.
He would renovate and rent out the houses, proving that his theory works if he can get the right funding and backing from local councils, which I fear could be very difficult.
This was a few years ago when I was buying and selling property. However, more recently, I did a TV series for Channel 4 called “Can Property Pay Your Wages”, and I proved that you can still make money from property and my series is now shown on Amazon Prime.
Given the massive increase in property values over the past two decades, it’s surprising that there are still so many empty homes.
People who live in and around the capital may be surprised at how cheap property can be bought in some of these areas in the north.
The biggest hurdle to this idea would be the cost.
If this were to be achieved nationwide, government involvement would be needed; few other agencies have the necessary funds.
Private companies with deep enough pockets can achieve better returns by developing more significant sites than by getting involved with low-cost individual houses.
It would be much easier to start at a smaller local level, preferably with the cooperation of the local council.
Unfortunately, in my experience, local councils don’t always tend to be very helpful when it comes to vacant properties. I once approached a council to discuss renovating a row of empty houses owned by the local authority. His representative said that they had already received several offers of this type and that they were not interested.
In some areas, if a project like this takes place, it may have to be without the help of the local council, which is a shame.
Someone I know in my local area recently bought a property to renovate and was hit with a council tax bill of £5000 per year, three times the average property rate.
That’s not much of an incentive to invest in the area and return abandoned houses to habitable condition, providing much-needed housing.
One way to start this is if you get a group of interested people together to buy a single derelict property, renovate it, and use it as a case study showing how it could be done.
This would be a great step to show you have the knowledge and document the costs involved.
You could use this first property to increase publicity in your local area and perhaps more widely.
You could then sell the property and use the proceeds to reinvest in other abandoned properties, snowball it up to a larger scale, or perhaps offer the property to a charity or other good cause at cost or discounted rent for show the potential benefits of what you are doing.
From recent experience and from talking with other business owners, your ideas about recruiting low-cost labor may prove more difficult than you think, even if you are prepared to offer training and experience to young people whose careers they have gone off the rails.
The cost of living is a big factor here, of course.
Still, I think cultural shifts, less-than-thought-out education, and social media promises of being able to drop out of school straight into the high life of an influencer are also to blame.
If you can crack this nut, you will already have accomplished much more than you ever set out to do.
I believe that properties used to house the homeless could benefit society, but would bring additional challenges.
Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted problem that stems from more than just the lack of affordable housing, although it is significant. It may be necessary to work with a specialist charity in the sector to understand the issues and challenges.
As I have found out in the past, the biggest challenge I think you will face is convincing those in a position of power and funding to back you that your plan is feasible and achievable.
Despite the various challenges involved, I believe your ideas and instincts are good, and your ownership experience and engineering background would be helpful.
Perhaps initially, you could talk to a charity that works in the housing sector; they are generally willing to provide information about what they do.
Perhaps becoming actively involved in or taking a job in the charity housing industry first could help you gain experience of the fundraising aspect of the project and how it could be organized and financed on a larger scale.
Who knows where your ideas could lead. I wish you the best of luck.
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