June 19 2013 Latest news:
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Almost 270 empty houses in a Norfolk district have been brought back into use in little more than two years.
And Broadland District Council says the rate of encouraging private property owners to return houses onto the market has increased thanks to earlier warning letters.
The authority writes to owners once their property has been vacant for six months. This approach has returned 67 houses into use between April and July.
Previously council staff waited 12 months before making contact. In 2010/11, 98 houses were brought back into use in 2010/11, with another 100 in 2011/12.
A letter is sent after six months to owners to help staff understand the reason for why a house is empty. Follow-up letters are then sent at intervals of three months until the property has been empty for a year.
Broadland says at this point another letter is sent informing the owners that enforcement procedures will be considered.
These can include the starting of a compulsory purchase order, which enables the council to buy the property, offering advice or financial assistance.
A 2008 survey indicated there were 651 empty houses in Broadland, with 472 vacant for more than six months.
Jo Cottingham, the council’s communities and housing portfolio holder, said most empty houses would return into use with the passing of time, but their aim was to reduce this wait and increase the availability of housing.
She said: “This new process is already showing encouraging results.
“Properties can remain empty for longer than six months for various reasons including renovation works, delays in sale procedures, void periods in the rental sector or probate procedures.
“Some listed properties can cause further delays. This said, we encourage residents to let us know of empty properties in their neighbourhood.”
The news of the successes comes against the backdrop of Broadland developing future housing plans for the district.
Around 10,000 new properties could be built in the area by 2026, according to a document known as the joint core strategy. This project outlines future development around the Greater Norwich area and is being challenged by the Stop Norwich Urbanisation (Snub).
Nich Starling, opposition Liberal Democrat group leader, said the empty houses programme was “sensible” and something his group wanted to see take place.
He said: “We’ve encouraged that through council meetings at every opportunity and we are pleased to see them doing it.
“The question is why was it not done earlier? But there’s no political angle on it.”