Residents’ views sought on strategy that will help bring empty homes back into use
Shropshire residents are being asked their views on the council’s draft Empty Homes Strategy, to help bring empty homes across the county back into use.
The draft Empty Homes Strategy, which was approved by Cabinet on Wednesday 6 July 2022, highlights the reasons why homes become empty, and sets out how the council will work with empty homeowners to bring properties back into use.
The draft strategy also outlines what enforcement powers the council can use, albeit subject to sufficient available resources, 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.
Empty homes are a wasted resource and often blight communities, especially in a council area such as Shropshire where there is such high demand for housing.
A key objective of Shropshire Council’s 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.
Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for built housing, said-
“Shropshire is a fantastic place to live. With an increasing population, changes in the size of households are putting increasing pressure on our housing stock. It is therefore absolutely right that we do everything in our power to maximise our existing, empty stock.
“There are around 3,979 empty homes in Shropshire. Over 1,444 of these have stood empty for more than six months. And some empty dwellings which are in poor condition can have a negative impact on neighbourhoods.
“I encourage as many residents as possible to get involved and have their say on our draft strategy to help us get empty homes back into use for our local communities.”
To view the draft strategy, visit Empty Homes Strategy 2022 | Shropshire Council
If you have any comments on the draft Empty Homes Strategy please email: HousingStrategy@shropshire.gov.uk.
The consultation runs from 25 July 2022 to 18 September 2022.
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.
An empty homes strategy also 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.