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Unoccupied homes must be returned to service

October 7, 2011 12:31 PM
In Retford Times

CLAIMS the district council is not doing enough to bring unoccupied houses back into use have been knocked back by the authority.

The Bassetlaw Liberal Democrats say they were taken aback by the numbers of homes not in use in the district.

The group has called on Bassetlaw District Council to ensure the empty properties are made available for potential occupants.

"One of things that struck us when we were walking around during the election campaign was the number of empty houses and buildings we saw," said Leon Duveen, treasurer and campaign manager.

"From asking around, we found out that many of them had been empty for months and, in many cases, years.

"Many families in the area need a home and council housing is at a premium. Leaving houses empty is a waste of a valuable resource and empty properties also cause problems to people that live around them."

Mr Duveen said he was worried about what he calls the lack of action by the council to bring the houses back into use.

"There were an estimated 1,900 empty houses in Bassetlaw last year 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," claimed Mr Duveen.

"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."

But leader of Bassetlaw council, Cllr Graham Oxby, highlighted some of the measures his administration has put in place to counter the trend of homes being left empty.

"(We are) working closely with A1 Housing and private owners to bring empty properties back into use," he said.

"A1 has reduced its number of empty homes to just 35 and these are only empty due to turnaround times between tenants.

"We are looking at council tax incentives and have developed a new empty homes strategy."

Mr Oxby said the council is running a private sector leasing scheme to increase the pool of housing available to meet the needs of people on the housing waiting list.

"Empty properties can be leased to the council for five years, with A1 Housing managing the tenancy on behalf of the council," he explained.

"Owners will receive rental income for the period (minus a management fee) and be guaranteed vacant possession of the property and in good state of repair and decoration - excluding fair wear and tear - at the end of the five year period.

"I would urge anybody with an empty property and who is unsure what to do with it to get in touch with the council's strategic housing team on 01909 533425."