New report shows hundreds of empty homes in Uttlesford

PUBLISHED: 09:08 23 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:08 23 July 2018

Uttlesford District Council has apologied for cancelling refuse collections

Uttlesford District Council has apologied for cancelling refuse collections

Archant

More than 700 homes in Uttlesford are sitting empty and the district council has said it recognises the problem.

Newly released figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that hundreds of properties have been left unoccupied for at least six months.

In October last year, when the most recent count was taken, there were 750 vacant homes in Uttlesford - one in every 48 houses in the area. Of those, 220 were classed as long-term vacancies, meaning that they had been unoccupied for at least six months.

The problem of empty homes in Uttlesford has improved in recent years, however. In 2008, when the number of vacant properties peaked nationwide, there were 910 in the area.

Across England, there were more than 600,000 vacant properties last October, over a third of which were long-term vacancies.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said that making sure properties were occupied was just part of the answer to the country’s housing shortage.

She said: “In the midst of a homelessness crisis it is, of course, frustrating to see houses left empty. But the fact is that even if we filled every one of these, there still wouldn’t be nearly enough homes to solve the problem.

“Decades of failure to build has left us in the lurch - the Government must now get on and build a new generation of social homes where people need them most.”

Figures show that 668 new homes were built in Uttlesford last year. In total, 745 new homes were created, including those converted from office blocks or houses split into flats.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “The number of long-term vacant dwellings in England is still lower than when records began, but we are determined to bring this figure down.

“That is why we are equipping councils with tools they need to tackle the issue head on, such as bringing forward legislation that will allow them to double the rate of council tax on those homes left empty for two years or longer.”

A spokesman for Uttlesford District Council (UDC) said: “In times of a housing crisis UDC recognises that empty homes are a waste of valuable, much-needed housing resource and can impact on the appearance and the vibrancy of the district. The council takes this matter very seriously and works hard to reduce the number of long term empty properties.

“A distinction needs to be made to current vacant properties within the district and those that are considered long term empty, being empty for longer than six months. At the time of the report, only 220 properties are considered to be long term empty properties, representing some of the lowest levels in the country.

“The council achieves this through a variety of means, including the threat of enforcement action such as compulsory purchase orders. The council is also part of the Private Lease Agreements Converting Empties scheme, which provides grants to owners to carry out repairs in exchange for a lease agreement.

“Under the scheme, the property would be leased and managed as an affordable home for a period of three years before being returned to the owner in sound condition.

“The council also takes advantage of the national initiative from central Government to charge an additional premium of 50 per cent on top of the usual council tax payable on properties that have been empty for a period in excess of two years.”

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