30/06/2022 - Permalink

Cabinet asked to approve draft strategy for consultation to help bring empty homes back into use

Related topics: Housing

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet are being asked to approve the council’s draft Empty Homes Strategy for public consultation, to help bring empty homes across Shropshire back into use.

The draft Empty Homes Strategy, which goes to Cabinet’s meeting next week (Wednesday 6 July 2022), highlights the reasons why homes become empty and sets out how the council will work with empty home owners to bring properties back into use. he draft strategy also outlines what enforcement powers the council can use if owners don’t engage and the property is causing a nuisance to neighbours.

The draft strategy sets out four objectives:-

  • Maintain relevant, accurate and current information relating to empty homes in the area – using council tax data and other information the council will maintain a database of dwellings that have been empty for over six months: this will include the reasons for it being empty.
  • Bring empty homes back into use through encouragement, advice, and assistance – the council will provide advice and signposting to owners of empty homes. In addition it will explore opportunities to bring empty homes back into use through ‘purchase and repair’ to deliver affordable housing, and through establishing a social lettings agency to provide a management service for homes.
  • Where all other negotiation has failed, consider options for taking the appropriate enforcement action to ensure empty homes are brought back into use – although the  council aims to bring empty homes back into use through working with owners, there may be exceptional circumstances where enforcement action must be taken: however, this will be based on an assessment of the empty property using a scoring matrix, and subject to sufficient resources.
  • Raise awareness of the Empty Homes Strategy with residents, dwelling owners, town councils and parish councils – empty homes are a wasted resource, can look unsightly, and can result in crime and anti-social behaviour. Therefore it is important that owners of empty homes seek advice from the council as to the options for bringing them back into use.

Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for built housing, said:-

“Empty homes are a wasted resource and often blight our communities, especially in a council area such as Shropshire where there is such high demand for housing.

“An important objective of our Housing Strategy is to make the best use of existing assets, through bringing empty homes and dwellings back into use as residential accommodation to meet housing need and demand.

“Our draft Empty Homes Strategy seeks to provide an overview of the numbers of empty homes in Shropshire, focuses on why homes can become empty, and how important it is that they are brought back into use.

“Although it’s not statutory requirement for a council to have an empty homes strategy, we know that tackling empty dwellings improves neighbourhoods, reduces nuisance, vandalism, and anti-social behaviour, and can improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.

“The draft strategy therefore sets out how the council will seek to reduce the number of empty homes, whilst promoting options for bringing empty homes and other properties back into use as residential accommodation.

“We plan to work together to identify empty homes so owners can be given advice and assistance to sell, lease or rent their dwelling. We also want to ensure that enforcement action should happen only as a last resort.”

Cabinet will be asked to approve the draft Empty Homes Strategy, which will be subject to an eight-week public consultation period.

You can view the full report and draft strategy here: Agenda for Cabinet on Wednesday 6 July 2022, 3 pm — Shropshire Council

Further information

Although not a statutory requirement for councils, it is recognised as good practice to have an empty homes strategy.

An empty homes strategy provides a policy framework setting out the advice and assistance that can be provided to bring empty homes back into use and the enforcement powers which could be used where empty homes are unsafe or visibly blighting a neighbourhood.

Furthermore, an empty homes strategy allows the council to demonstrate how it is exploring new and innovative opportunities to bring empty homes back into use. In addition, by establishing the process and policy framework for consideration of enforcement action, the empty homes strategy seeks to mitigate any risk to the council in pursuing such action.

In order for the housing market to function, and due to issues and circumstances such as major repair works, probate or people receiving care, a proportion of homes will always be empty at any one time.

The Government considers a long-term empty dwelling to be one that has been empty for over six months. In Shropshire less than one per cent of homes have been empty for over six months at any one time. The vast majority of these are privately owned and are dispersed across the council area.