Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use

Written on . Posted in Community, Housing, Housing repairs, Residents, Your area, Your community, Your council

The Empty Homes Agency has for a long time been campaigning for more commitment from Government to deal with the issue of private empty properties. This has been recognised by the new coalition government who have signalled their intention to act on empty homes with a commitment in its coalition agreement. The idea is to also provide assistance and incentives to the owners of long term empty properties.

The District of Epping Forest has approximately 600 long term privately owned empty properties. They could provide a much needed housing resource and could  help meet a huge housing demand especially in the current market conditions.

Epping Forest District Council is working hard to try to reduce the number of empty homes in the District, and has been working in partnership with other councils to form the PLACE Scheme Partnership.  The Partnership has appointed Capital Project Consultancy (CPC) to return empty properties back into use, through financial assistance provided as a grant to the owner.  The other 7 local authorities are Chelmsford, East Herts, Uttlesford, Watford, Epping Forest,  Harlow, Hertsmere and St Albans.

PLACE (Private Lease Agreements Converting Empties) is targeted at helping owners of long term empty homes return their properties to use in the local area. The scheme offers grant funding of up to £50,000 for properties needing significant repairs and ensures that properties meet the Government`s Decent Homes Standard. Properties that sit empty for a long period of time can often fall into disrepair, which can have a detrimental effect on the local neighbourhood. Empty properties can also attract vandalism and vermin. 

Other benefits of this scheme to owners is that CPC design the works specification and manages the process.  Also, the owner has no long term ties and there is no requirement to pay back the money. In return, the Council leases the property from the owner for three years once the work has been completed and then returns the property  to them fully renovated.

People that may benefit in particular from this scheme could be someone who has inherited a property that has been empty for some time – perhaps whilst probate is being sorted out – and the property has fallen into disrepair, and the beneficiary can’t, or doesn’t want to, sell the property in the current market.

Epping Forest District Council`s Housing Portfolio Holder Councillor David Stallan said. As a Council we are fully committed to bringing empty properties back into use and are looking to help owners in every way we can. This may be through general advice and information or through financial incentives such as the PLACE Scheme and other grants where appropriate.

However, in cases where an owner is uncooperative or unwilling to consider any of the options available, the Council has enforcement powers to ensure empty properties are returned to use. Particularly where the property is causing a nuisance or is detrimental to neighbouring homes; the Council will, as a last resort, consider enforcement options such as Empty Dwelling Management Orders, Compulsory Purchase Orders or Enforced Sale as appropriate.  

Any owners of empty properties who would like to find out more about the help available should contact Paul Callaghan at Epping Forest District Council, on 01992 564706.

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