'Abolish empty Bristol office blocks' community share offer

Chris Askew, Tony Crofts and Jim Kinnaird The group needs to raise £632,000 from the public

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A group campaigning to turn disused office blocks into affordable homes wants to raise £632,000 to buy a derelict site in east Bristol.

Abolish Empty Office Blocks (AEOB) said it had found a suitable property and has launched a community share offer.

It said the buildings and land could be converted into 22 flats, gardens, a children's play area and community cafe and would be run as a co-operative.

If successful any development would be subject to planning permission.

Bristol City Council met AEOB earlier in the month and said that although it had made no formal commitment it would "in principle like to work with the group to increase the delivery of affordable housing in the city".

It added that council officers were currently working on a separate project entitled "Offices to Homes Conversion Initiatives" which was set up following the relaxation of planning regulations over the next three years.

'Ethical money'

Tony Crofts, from AEOB said: "The council currently has 14,750 on the housing waiting list - most of them are working people who can't afford to buy or rent a home.

"Homes only go to those who bid the highest which is immoral. It is possible to make affordable housing pay for itself in the way council housing used to.

Empty office buildings in east Bristol The group wants to build 22 flats and a community cafe on the site in east Bristol

"[Those investing] can get satisfaction from seeing something decent being built. In this country there is still lots of ethical money looking for a home."

He said that once in profit the group hoped to be able to pay 3-5% interest on investment and shares.

Dominic Murphy, of Easton and Lawrence Hill Neighbourhood Management said: "Reusing empty buildings to provide genuinely affordable housing in a city where there is massive housing shortage and where house prices exclude many people makes perfect sense."

David Mowat, from AEOB, said: "We've come together to find a practical way to reconcile the divisions between the haves and the have-nots.

Maximum £20,000

"This way people with less money can use their skills to build community supported by people with extra cash."

The group said the flats, once built, would be available for renting.

The organisation is run as a community co-operative - known as an Industrial Provident Society.

People can invest a maximum of £20,000 to the generic share offer, which means that if this particular sale falls through then it can be transferred to another possible purchase.

If the group does not manage to buy the office buildings investors have the option of having all their money returned.

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