Call for action over ‘scandal’ of empty homes

Cllr John Morris said this Huntingdonshire house had been empty for two years

Cllr John Morris said this Huntingdonshire house had been empty for two years - Credit: Archant

Huntingdonshire District Council is being urged to work with the owners of empty homes - possibly by providing financial assistance - to bring the properties back into use in a bid to beat a housing “crisis”

Brampton councillor John Morris said the district faced the “scandalous situation” of having more than 400 homes which had been empty for more than six months at a time when almost 3,500 households were on the housing register.

He wants the council to look into setting up an empty homes strategy, like one in Peterborough where the council managed to bring almost a third of its long-term empty homes back into use last year.

But Councillor Ryan Fuller, deputy leader of the Conservative-run council, who has responsibility for housing and planning, said: “The district council takes its role in the housing market most seriously and is working hard to do its part in ensuring there is an increase in the numbers, locations and types of homes that best meet the family needs of our communities and also create a flexible workforce for our employers.”

Cllr Morris, a Liberal Democrat, said: “I am very keen to encourage the council to take action over long-term empty homes.”

He said that in the last four years the council had accepted nearly 1,000 households as being statutorily homeless and last year spent almost £475,000 on bed and breakfast accommodation.

Cllr Morris said that since April last year the council had spent more than £170,000 on Travel Lodge accommodation and between 2010 and March last year the council had spent more than £1.4 million on a single bed and breakfast establishment.

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He wants the council to look at offering financial assistance to the owners of long-term empty homes - possibly with an interest free loan - to bring them back into use, linked to a private sector leasing scheme.

Cllr Fuller said: “Our next local plan makes provision for over 20,000 new dwellings across the district with an expectation that 40 per cent of those will be affordable homes.

“We are already making good progress, with 682 new houses completed in Huntingdonshire in 2016/17, with 188 affordable homes. The pace of delivery from developers is increasing and those figures rise to a predicted 1,265 new homes in 2018/19 and peaking to 1,864 in 2020/21.”

Cllr Fuller said the had adopted a multi-action housing strategy last year, was working with specialists to influence housing supply and type and was considering setting up a housing delivery vehicle to “leverage” supply of new housing.

He said the district had the best record on empty homes in the county with just 120 empty for more than two years and that Cllr Morris’s figures included homes which were only temporarily empty.

Cllr Fuller said access to housing was an important issue for the council which was acting to stop homelessness arising.