Filling the gap:

We've partnered with M&G to repurpose empty spaces and prevent homelessness in mainland Europe

Addressing a housing shortage and preventing homelessness in Europe requires a wide range of solutions within the housing ecosystem.

That’s why, we have initiated a partnership with M&G that aims to introduce a critical component of homelessness prevention and reach more than 250,000 individuals.To achieve our vision, we aim to build an innovative and lasting coalition to bring non-traditional housing and homelessness prevention solutions to the market across Europe, enabling affordable homes to be built that would not otherwise have been.

Our Approach

Habitat for Humanity, with the support of M&G has honed an approach to addressing the risk of homelessness and housing inequality in London and Warsaw, with a pilot currently planned for Edinburgh, that converts empty and unused spaces into supported accommodation for vulnerable communities most at risk of homelessness.

Our aim through this approach is to:

  • Convert empty and vacant spaces (which are not of commercial interest to property developers) into decent accommodation for vulnerable communities facing homelessness
  • Galvanise investment from the local private sector and other donors to support/catalyse the funding of this conversion
  • Use the increasing demand for corporate volunteering from an increasingly socially minded private sector to galvanise this investment. M&G’s leadership here will inspire action from peers
  • Work in partnership with local government, local community groups and local charity partners to convert existing, owned, vacant spaces into decent housing for their beneficiaries and citizens


M&G plc is a leading international savings and investments business, managing money for both individual savers and institutional investors in 28 markets. M&G actively works to help tackle social challenges and support the communities in which they work. Their ambition is to build inclusive and resilient communities through urban regeneration, economic empowerment, and skills and education. Social mobility is their core focus and they want to use community investment and their partnership with Habitat for Humanity to help break down the barriers that prevent people from living the life they want. M&G does this by investing in essential needs for communities to thrive, strengthening social networks and equipping people with the skills, tools and opportunities to be financially secure.

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Our Partnership 

Our partnership will helps us pioneer this brand-new approach to homelessness prevention – utilising empty spaces to build future homes for vulnerable groups. Our vision is a partnership which ‘builds thriving communities’, focusing initially on three key markets: London, Edinburgh and Warsaw, and expanding our model across mainland Europe. Each of the projects will provide local opportunities for vulnerable people in these cities to live, learn and thrive. As well as opportunities for partner colleagues to invest their time, energy and skills to support our partnership ambitions.

Living Case Studies

We will initially use three pilot programmes in London, Edinburgh and Warsaw as examples and living case studies. Each of the programmes will provide local opportunities for vulnerable people in these cities to live, learn and thrive.
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We are conducting research to identify the scope of opportunity that exists to replicate this approach. We expect to gain significant insights through the findings that will strengthen our approach and will allow us to move forward with the next steps of the programme.
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We will develop a Toolkit based on the insights from the research and from the case studies, and will provide guidance about developing and delivering our empty spaces programme that will be translatable and adaptable for other markets.
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Upon the finalisation of the toolkit, we will deliver a roadshow using Habitat's proven housing forum model in our jointly agreed markets, which will present our approach and background research to key civil society stakeholders in three initial European markets as a critical component of homelessness prevention.
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Homelessness in Europe

Over the past several years, almost every country in Europe has seen a drastic increase in the number of its citizens experiencing homelessness at the same time as a dramatic spike in the cost of housing. Data from individual countries is reported along different metrics and is therefore difficult to compare, nevertheless, it points to a very unsettling overall trend.

At the same time, several cities in mainland Europe have empty and unused spaces that could be re-purposed to support affordable accommodation for vulnerable people. According to a recent report on empty space in London alone, more than 20,000 spaces have been empty for at least six months, and 11,000 for more than two years.

Repurposing empty spaces in London

Habitat for Humanity’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to call home is particularly poignant for young people leaving care here in the UK. Having been shuttled from one home to another during their childhood, the sense of security which comes with a home has never been their reality. What’s more care leavers are forced to be independent much younger than their peers. At this early age, the prospect of finding employment, paying rent and other bills, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle without the support network and safety net of a family can be a daunting prospect HFHGB, in partnership with Barking and Dagenham council has launched the second phase of a successful pilot programme to refurbish and renovate council owned vacant and disused properties. This will deliver supported affordable accommodation for young care leavers, a group identified as particularly vulnerable to experiencing homelessness.

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Repurposing empty spaces in Warsaw

Approximately 35% of children in Poland are living in deprivation. These children can end up incredibly vulnerable, facing social exclusion, criminality, educational issues, and poor health. In addition, there are 75,000 ‘looked after children’ in Poland. For both groups of vulnerable young people, any state social support stops immediately on their 18th birthday. Without adequate adult and financial support, and with limited life skills, the ability of these young adults to live a successful independent life is limited, and in fact, only 10-20% of young care leavers access employment. As the Polish housing system does not offer special housing support to care leavers after they reach 18, alongside the limited social housing stock, there is a 3-4 year gap between leaving a ‘looked after child’ institution and finding a roof over one’s head” – often a very crucial time. During 2014-2016, Habitat Poland piloted a project in Warsaw renovating attic spaces into transitional flats which now provide supported accommodation for young care leavers. Following the success of the project, Habitat Poland will develop further properties in Warsaw that will provide these young people with secure homes.

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Repurposing empty spaces in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is currently facing a homelessness crisis similar to London, with a household becoming homeless every 18 minutes and 700 people sleeping rough per night. HFHGB is looking to launch a pilot in Edinburgh, that will replicate the model we have developed with Barking and Dagenham council, within the context of the local market.

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