Communities Minister Andrew Stunell has set out how local people can bring back into use empty homes that attract anti-social behaviour and cause misery for neighbours.
The Government is offering powerful new incentives for councils to get empty homes lived in again, matching the council tax raised for every empty property brought back into use – which can be spent as they wish. Mr Stunell urged local communities to work with their council to identify where empty homes are blighting the neighbourhood, and start benefiting from extra cash that can be used to improve the local area.
There are around 300,000 long term empty properties across England. They can easily fall into disrepair, attracting squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, bringing down the neighbourhood. So Mr Stunell is calling on residents to come forward and point out these properties to their local council so action can be taken to tackle the problem.
Under plans recently consulted on, the Government will match through the New Homes Bonus any council tax raised from a property that previously stood empty. The extra funding can be spent to benefit the local community – whether on council tax discounts, boosting local services, renovating more empty properties or improving local facilities.
The funding is part of a two pronged attack to get to grips with the issue of empty homes, and will supplement the £100 million already announced as part of the Spending Review for Housing Associations to bring empty properties back into use.
Communities Minister Andrew Stunell said: “Long-term empty properties easily fall into disrepair, and attract the squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour that bring down our local neighbourhoods. With as many as 300,000 long-term empty properties across the UK this precious resource is being squandered.
“Empty properties should instead be treated as an asset and brought back into use for those families that need somewhere to live.
“That’s why we’re giving local councils powerful new incentives to tackle the problem. The Coalition government is pledging to match the council tax raised for every property brought back into use to help these properties become homes for thousands of families in need.
“It’s vital that local communities, councils and owners of empty properties work together to bring properties back into use and begin to tackle this problem that is blighting our local communities.”
There is a thought that the Councils should be doing everything in their power in any case to bring back empty houses into use as homes, but the resources to carry out or encourage such works are not necessarily available to them. If this extra financial incentive encourages some of these homes to be brought back into use that would not otherwise be the case, this may also help housing waiting lists and help improve local less attractive neighbourhoods and it should be encouraged. The “jury is out” as they say in relation to what actual effect this new initiative will have.
18th January 2011