Empty properties strategy aims to ease pressure on housing market

Cotswold District Council has developed a major strategy to ensure hundreds of long-term empty properties are brought back into use to provide quality affordable homes to residents in housing need.

The Long Term Empty Property Strategy is designed to identify homes that have been vacant for more than six months and will support owners in making them available for occupation.

The aim of the strategy is to help ease the housing waiting list as well as ensuring properties that have fallen into disrepair are improved to benefit communities, residents wellbeing and the environment.

At the end of August 2019 Cotswold district had 648 properties classed as being empty for more than six months.

Cllr Lisa Spivey, Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, said: "We all know that our district is facing a housing crisis with 1812 people currently on the housing register for affordable homes. This is something we could help to reduce if we could bring into use even a fraction of the 648 long term empty properties in the Cotswolds.

“The aim of this strategy is to identify empty properties, find their owners and provide help and support to bring homes back into use. As a last resort, we would use enforcement measures to make sure unsafe and unsightly homes are not left to negatively impact our towns, villages and ultimately, our residents.

“This strategy conveys enough power to the council to effectively deal with long term empty homes and I see it as a key strand in our commitment to tackling the housing crisis."

Cllr Jenny Forde, Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Public Safety said: “This is
an important strategy that aims to tackle the social rented housing crisis. Ensuring we bring empty properties back into use will also play a key role in improving the health and wellbeing of our residents.

“Our residents take pride in where they live and the impact of living near to a neglected empty property on a person's mental health should not be underestimated. This is one of the many ways we should protect our environment and prevent anti-social behaviour."

A dedicated empty homes officer has now been appointed by the Council to work with property owners and explore the options available to them.

An empty property database is also being established containing information provided by council tax and collected through investigations, reviews, complaints and surveys.

When properties do become empty, the council will try to locate owners and offer advice on how to bring the homes back into use. 

When this is not successful the council will move onto formal enforcement measures against the owner that could ultimately include a compulsory purchase order or enforced sale.

In 2018 more than 703 applications had been made to join the housing waiting list of which more than 167 were classified as homeless and in need of housing provision. A total of 79 households were placed into temporary accommodation.

Cllr Spivey added: “A growing population and high property prices is making it harder for people to find a home so this scheme will help alleviate the situation by making good use of existing housing.”

The Empty Homes Strategy was unanimously approved for implantation by the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 4 November.

Cotswold District Council
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Cirencester
Gloucestershire
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