Corporate Responsibility: TV series tests new answer to housing crisis

Georgina Lock

The BBC is producing a TV series examining a way of tackling the housing shortage that has been largely ignored. Dereliction Detectives, to be aired on BBC 2, is looking for people who want to purchase a derelict property and convert it into their ideal home.

The BBC has been working alongside the Empty Homes Agency on the series, which the corporation considers part of its remit as a public service broadcaster.

Jonathan Ellis, chief executive of the agency, said: "I can't tell you how excited we are." He added that the series will tackle the issues the agency deals with and will enable the organisation to get its message about the importance of using empty homes to a wider audience.

Series producer Jane Merkin said the potential of empty homes to solve the housing crisis was being ignored by the Government, which seemed to be focusing on building new homes.

She added: "Why should we build more properties when we have 700,000 empty houses in Britain?"

The eight-part series, to be shown in the autumn, will follow the fortunes of eight individuals, couples or families, who will be filmed as they try to find homes.

The series aims to have a strong social angle, so the programme makers are trying to feature people with low budgets, preferably key workers or charity employees, and who are prepared to take on a derelict property.

The producers hope to demonstrate that buying a derelict home in an urban area is a financially feasible option for those who are on a limited budget.

As well as offering tips on how to track down owners, Dereliction Detectives will provide help and advice for people who want to buy and restore derelict properties - from financing and mortgages to the hands-on renovation of houses.

Rachel Innes-Lumsden, executive producer, said: "It seems such a waste that properties are just left to go to rack and ruin - especially at a time when people are desperate to get onto the property ladder."

The BBC says the show will also trace the genealogy of derelict homes and could uncover the problems that led to their decline.

MONITOR

Adam Sampson, director, Shelter

Efforts that highlight alternative means of bringing housing back into use are to be applauded. The Empty Homes Agency and the BBC both have strong ethical credentials, and this suggests that the series will not only make for compelling TV but could also draw attention to serious issues.

The scale of the housing crisis, however, is enormous and extends beyond the difficulties people face getting onto the property ladder. Ownership is increasingly out of the reach of those on average incomes, and social housing is in such short supply that there are more than a million households on council waiting lists.

Sometimes there is no option but to demolish run-down homes, but a responsibly made TV series could show alternatives. I hope the series will not only offer solutions for the families featured, but also underline the fading dream many have of owning an affordable home.

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