The minister pledged to “stop the rot” that empty homes can bring to blighted neighbourhoods and said that he “wants to go much further” in tackling the problem.
Under the scheme 5,000 empty, and in many cases derelict, properties will be refurbished and put back onto the market over the next 3 years.
Latest figures show the number of empty homes dropped from 300,000 in 2009 to 259,000 in 2012, and today’s new funding is in addition to the £160 million ministers have already committed to bringing empty homes back into use. The government has also given councils greater powers to tackle empty homes locally including:
•allowing councils to charge up to 150% of the normal Council Tax rate on owners of the most problematic neglected homes from April 2013
•applying the ‘New Homes Bonus’ to empty homes, with government matching Council Tax proceeds from newly inhabited properties pound for pound, doubling councils’ revenue from these
•in the most severe cases, enabling councils to take over the most problematic neglected homes through the use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders
Speaking at the beginning of Empty Homes Week Don Foster said:
“Empty homes blight communities, attract crime and rats and deprive people of available housing. What’s worse this is a vicious circle – one derelict home brings an area down and can lead to more and in places whole communities have been destroyed. I am determined quite literally to stop the rot.
“This extra money will help communities refurbish empty and abandoned homes, bring in new residents, provide desperately needed extra affordable housing for families and regenerate communities.”
This significant cash injection will help thousands of families in housing need, but will also support local economic growth by providing work for local building firms.
A range of organisations including councils, housing associations, community and voluntary groups as well as high street regeneration groups – prioritising the 27 ‘Portas pilot’ towns and 326 town team partners – will be able to bid for a share of the funding.
Ministers are also considering future measures to bring not just homes but empty buildings generally back into use including making it easier to convert commercial into residential property and making more use of space above shops as homes.
TV presenter, architect, and Independent Empty Homes Adviser George Clarke said:
“Empty homes are a very serious problem for communities – they cause a loss of housing, produce an increase in crime and bring entire areas down. The government has shown it is equally serious about tackling this problem and I welcome this massive injection of extra cash that will help towns across the country tackle the blight of empty homes and regenerate communities.”
David Ireland, Chief Executive at the Empty Homes Agency, said:
“The huge effort people have made this year to get empty homes back into use has been truly inspiring and created a major contribution to housing supply. This week we are celebrating what they have achieved and pushing for changes to make it possible for even more to be achieved next year.”
Homes and Communities Agency Chief Executive Pat Ritchie said:
“Tackling empty homes remains a key priority for the Agency. I welcome this additional funding, which has an emphasis on helping to bring empty commercial and non-residential back into use as affordable housing, and will build on the work we are already doing to bring long-term empty homes back into use through our Affordable Homes Programme.
“We will be working with our local partners to help meet local need and in doing so, support their efforts to tackle homelessness and regenerate neighbourhoods that are suffering from the blight of empty homes and help to prevent neighbourhood decline.”
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