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Empty Housing

publication date: Oct 5, 2011
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books

Empty Housing

Andrew Stunell: More power for communities to bring empty homes back into use

Through many Government schemes, each political party always states their claim that they are going to bring back empty homes to habitable condition for the neighbourhood. The coalition government is no exception and has just announced that "Community and voluntary organisations will now be able to bid for part of £100m Government funding for pioneering housing schemes that will ensure empty properties that ruin neighbourhoods are lived in once again, and at the same time provide affordable housing."

The Government also claim this scheme could provide "excellent training opportunities for local people". For example, Youthbuild in Harrogate - the charity purchases empty homes for refurbishment by trainees under the guidance of a mentor. The refurbished properties are rented out to the trainees. This provides employment, training and affordable housing, while also giving young people a long term stake in the local area.

For those people who own an empty home, be aware there are plans which are currently being consulted on to allow councils local discretion to introduce a council tax premium on homes in their area that have been empty for more than two years.

This new proposal seems to differ from past efforts (which have typically failed), as community and self help groups will now have the opportunity of applying for financial backing to tackle empty homes, with formal bidding guidance to be published shortly. Previously only conventional housing providers could apply.

Secondly, by including empty homes brought back into use within the New Homes Bonus, the Government is also giving councils the same financial rewards for bringing an empty home back into use as building a new one - nearly £9,000 for a band D property. Already in year one of the New Homes Bonus, just under 16,000 long term empty homes were brought back into use, equating to a reward for councils of around £19m.

For more information on the new scheme, visit the Communities website.


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