Council takes control of empty property

South Gloucestershire CouncilSouth Gloucestershire Council has taken legal action over a house in Coalpit Heath which has been empty for over 16 years.

The action coincides with a National Week of Action on Empty Homes which runs from 23 to 27 November.

The property is being made the subject of an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) as part of the council’s Empty Homes Strategy. The strategy sets out the initiatives which the council plans to implement over the next five years to re-use empty properties across the district.

EDMOs will be applied where a property has been empty for over three years for no justifiable reason. The powers will be used as a last resort where the owner has refused all reasonable offers of assistance from the council, such as the possibility of a low interest Empty Homes Loan and advice and information on how to cost-effectively improve a property’s condition. Once an EDMO is obtained the council will carry out any essential works needed and the property will then be let to meet local housing need.

In South Gloucestershire there are approximately 100 properties that have been empty for over three years many of which have poor exteriors, overgrown gardens, piles of rubbish and are an eyesore in local neighbourhoods. Empty homes are also a wasted housing resource.

Empty homes are a national problem with the recession causing a nine per cent jump in the number of private homes empty for over six months across England. However, in South Gloucestershire the success of the Empty Homes Team has bucked that trend. The national figure for properties empty for more than six months is 1.6 per cent whilst in South Gloucestershire this figure has remained at 0.75 per cent for the last six months.

Through working with property owners, the council has returned 103 properties to use over the same period, exceeding its half year target of 75. These impressive achievements are a result of additional resources being allocated to focus on the problem of long term empty homes.

Cllr Matthew Riddle, executive member for community care and housing, said: “Returning empty properties to use is a key concern for local communities, which is why we have invested extra resources in tackling this problem. Obviously where possible we want to work with owners and find positive voluntary solutions that avoid the use of an Empty Dwelling Management Orders, which is a last resort.”

Sarah McNamara, empty homes officer, said: “Before the introduction of EDMOs, neighbours living next to long term empty properties often had to put up with an eyesore as we relied on the co-operation of the owner to bring their empty property back into use. Now we have the legal power to take positive action that will benefit the whole community.”

Source: South Gloucestershire Council