March 16 2014 Latest news:
Monday, February 24, 2014
More than 180 homes in and around Norwich have stood empty for more than two years, at a time when house prices and private rents are increasing, new figures have revealed.
According to figures from Norwich City Council and Broadland District Council, there are more than 600 homes in the two districts, which have been empty for between six and 24 months and just over 180 which have been empty for more than two years.
In Norwich, 325 homes have been empty for more than six months, of which 73 have been empty for two years or more.
Broadland district, which includes areas such as Thorpe St Andrew, Sprowston and Spixworth, has 284 homes which have not been lived in for six months and a further 111 which have empty for at least two years.
The number of empty homes comes at a time when, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) house prices surged to another record high in December, with the price of home standing at £250,000 on average across the UK.
And, according to statistics produced by Norwich City Council, people in the city have had to stomach “significant increases” in private rents.
The city council says monthly rent for a two-bedroom private house in Norwich went up from £582 a month in 2009 to £649 in 2012, while rent on a three-bedroom house surged from £646 a month to £757 a month.
Bert Bremner, cabinet member for housing at Norwich City Council, said: “The principal reason for the increase is likely to be growing demand from the group of households described as ‘trapped renters’.
But council bosses stress they are taking action to get empty homes back into use.
A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We focus on targeting the owners of properties that have been empty for six months or more.
“Between April 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 we brought 142 empty homes back into use and our target is 20 – so that is a fantastic achievement.”
He said that was achieved through a range of measures, including sending letter to owners of empty homes, adding a premium of 50pc of council tax on homes empty for two years or more and a partnership with city charity St Martins Housing Trust.
That partnership sees the trust take on leases in return for construction workers who have been homeless refurbishing the homes. Those workers then get a chance to bid to move into them.
Officers at Broadland District Council said they had sent letters to at least 304 properties that had become empty for six months, 78 empty for a year had received follow up letters and a similar number visited for external inspections.
Further letters detailing specific enforcement actions have been sent to owners of 65 empty properties.
Housing enforcement officer Mark Siddall said: “One of the particularly exciting projects has been an empty property attaching to commercial premises in Rackheath.
“The owner was keen to develop the property and maximise its potential and the council has been able to offer an interest free loan for both the existing unit and towards the creation of a new unit.
“The owners have arranged a high quality conversion and extension resulting in two very good units with improved energy efficiency.
“Both properties quickly attracted tenants who are moving in at the beginning of March.”
Further afield, in South Norfolk, there are 393 homes which have been empty for more than six months, plus a further 62 empty for more than six months where work on them has now started. Eighty-four homes have been empty for at least two years.
In Great Yarmouth district, 438 homes have been empty for at least six months, of which 105 have not been lived in for at least two years.
• Are you fed up with a house near you which has stood empty for years? Tell us your story by calling reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email firstname.lastname@example.org