Walking through Bristol in mid recession, there are many many more empty properties as businesses close, homes are repossessed and places become derelict. This reminds me of what happened during the Great Depression in the US: Thousands of properties lying empty while people are homeless or crammed in social housing, or having to endure various hardships due to living arrangements. This conundrum led to considerable social unrest both then and in the recession of the 70s.
To solve this problem some turn to squatting, or artists sometimes ask administrators of empty properties for their temporary use for exhibitions, and many positive results have come from this. The arts/community group Artspace/Lifespace has made many steps forward with this in Bristol, with it's use of the Pro Cathedral and now the various "Bridewell" police stations as temporary arts venues before their redevelopment as housing projects. Apart from giving these places free publicity, they also cleaned out the properties and maintained them while occupying them.
I believe a part of this success has been the empty buildings tax which the owners of these buildings would have been charged had their buildings sat empty.
I'm not aware of what legislation stops there being a general purpose way of facilitating temporary use agreements with a property's administrator. I am sure however that there is much legislation that gets in the way of this.
Uses need not purely be artistic. Any positive community uses such as short term housing, shops, and businesses can help a positive future for the community around it. I believe any social, cultural, business or environmental purpose could be included within this scheme, thus leading also to many low cost business models - such as food preparation "cafes" in busy central streets, voluntary organisations or workers cooperatives producing what we no longer afford to import, and a homeless population not driven to rioting or crime due to lack of community or opportunities around them. Agreements could vary depending on the nature of the project (such as increasing rent as business picks up), some part of building's insurance could be covered as part of the agreement, and much of this could be paid for by a higher tax on these empty premises, and by the opportunity cost of leaving those buildings empty. I would ask that this agreement be done as an open process, consulting with local residents as is usually done for a planning permission application, not only to grant the use, but to ask for suggestions, contributions and involvement (for example, in time or money) towards the scheme.
I am aware that the SCA as it stands does not have space for dialogue once this suggestion is sent, but I am happy to do so informally or to travel wherever possible and present further documents or clarification further along the line. I have written this without contacting the groups mentioned in 10., but will endeavour to do so and that they can submit similar proposals.
Point 9: I don't know if these come under "local service providers":
Community groups such as the PRSC in Stokes Croft - which has done lots of work with the homeless population of that area.
Workers cooperatives in Bristol - the CDA will know who to contact.
Volunteer waiver of unpicked food prices. Under this agreement, farmers unable to raise money for distribution, and where sale price doesn't meet production costs, allow city people to come and take produce. Perhaps in exchange for city items or training. Groups transporting large amounts of produce could then be allowed to distribute it.
"The farmers are being pauperized by the poverty of the industrial population and the industrial population is being pauperized by the poverty of the farmers. Neither has the money to buy the product of the other."