Empty Homes Part 2

by Mark Johnston

A nationwide housing has given to increased homelessness and affordability problems. There is now increased emphasis on government policies to tackle the issue of empty homes.

Empty homes in towns and cities are a growing problem. Residential properties that stand empty are almost defiantly a target for squatters, vandals and thieves. They can also be blight on neighbourhoods by attracting rubbish and also vermin.

Many local councils believe that empty properties are a waste of valuable resources especially in areas where there is an acute shortage of affordable housing.

Data has shown that around 300,000 privately owned homes have been vacant for over 6 months and there are many more council and housing association properties that are empty. All in all there are an estimated 1 million properties empty. Many of these ‘empties’ are also in areas that are high in demand.

This data is particularly important as the government has proposed that the UK needs at least 3 million homes to be built by 2020 in order to ease the housing shortage. Many experts feel that the government need to revise their housing policies as they are based almost entirely on building new house and this seems to go against all the ‘green’ initiatives that have already set in place.

One million empty homes is a third of what the government requires, however in light of this it seems little is being done to utilise this ‘empty stock’.

Unfortunately many local authorities have neither the funding nor the resources to renovate these empty houses and developers are also not interested in renovating as they much prefer to build in bulk on empty plots.

However, as part of the governments housing strategy they have announced £150 million in funding to bring empty homes back in to use. However, many people doubt that the whole of the funding pledged will go to productive use by council and housing associations.

Along with this funding the government have further announced that empty homes that are returned to use will qualify for the ‘new homes bonus’. Other measures include encouraging private landlords and housing associations to use ‘green deal’ funding to renovate empty dwellings and also changing empty dwelling management orders  to target long term empty homes.

George Clarke, an architect and ‘the home show’ presenter, would like to see a tough approach in a bid to help those waiting for homes, such as instead of exempting inhabited houses from council tax they should quadruple the tax.

The empty homes charity agrees with this and has called on the government to allow local authorities to charge higher council tax on long term empty homes. They believe that this revenue could then be reinvested in to bringing more vacant properties in to use.

In answer to this the government has now started a consultation period on an ‘empty homes premium’ addition to council tax, which is payable if a house is empty for more than 2 years.

The housing minister, Grant Shapps has said ‘the government was making some progress, with 22,000 homes being brought back in to use last year’.

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