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Empty Houses, time for action not words

September 27, 2011 10:47 AM
By Leon Duveen on 01909 514600 / 07879 497801
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

One of things that struck us when we were walking around during the election campaign was the number of empty houses & buildings we saw. From asking around, we found out that many of them had been empty for months & in many cases years. Many families in the area need a home and council housing is at a premium, another legacy of the last Labour Government. Leaving houses empty is a waste of a valuable resource and empty properties also cause problems to people that live around them.

What has been worrying has been the lack of action by the Council to bring these houses back into use. There were an estimated 1900 empty houses in Bassetlaw last year[i] but over the last five years less than 15 houses have been re-occupied following direct action by the Council and none in the last year.

The current Government have made it easier for the Council to act on the problem. At last week's Liberal Democrat Conference, Andrew Stunell MP the Lib Dem Minister in the Dept. Of Communities & Local Government said

".bringing those empty homes back into use has long been a key demand of Liberal Democrats. It was one of our big asks on housing policy during the coalition negotiations. . .
Last October, we announced a £100m programme to kick start the reuse of empty properties to create thousands more affordable homes right across the country. In the coming weeks, I will be bringing forward the details of our empty homes strategy - the first time any government has had one.

And of course I want to see local authorities getting to grips with the empty homes in their areas. Already, the New Homes Bonus will apply to Empty Homes, so councils will receive six years worth of council tax per home. £9,000 or so, but we can do more. . .

That's why today I can announce that we will shortly be consulting on whether councils should be given the power to charge extra council tax on homes in their area that have been empty for more than two years, through an Empty Homes Premium." [ii]

It is to be hoped that the current Administration in Bassetlaw will do more on this issue than the Tories did. The Council has drafted a new policy on empty houses but it is actions that we need to see, not just fine words and we will be asking them for details at the Council meeting on Thursday 29th. Now they have the tools to get to grips with this issue and turn empty houses in to family homes and also become sources of income to the council.

[i] http://emptyhomes.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/empty-homes-stats-2010.xls

[ii] http://www.libdems.org.uk/latest_news_detail.aspx?title=Andrew_Stunell%E2%80%99s_speech_to_Liberal_Democrat_Autumn_Conference&pPK=b40b4c1c-721c-473f-be99-6d35fd8bdffb