24 July 2013

Call to bring empty homes back into use to ease housing shortage

Owners of long-term empty homes are being urged to bring their properties back into use in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council.

With spiralling private sector rents, rising homelessness and a chronic shortage of homes in the city, the council is stepping up its drive to tackle the unacceptably high number of properties standing empty for over six months.

Under a £3.1 million award from the Homes & Communities Agency, the council - direct and through local community groups - has funding for owners, potential buyers and private landlords to help increase the numbers of homes in the city. We are working in partnership with Lewes District Council and the funding is provided for properties across both areas.

Empty properties can attract vandalism, fly-tipping and anti social behaviour, and the City Council will consider enforcement action where a property is empty long term and/or causing concern to neighbours.

Developer Steve Rooke worked with the empty property team and received funding to refurbish an older property that had been empty for some time.  
“The council then rent it back from me for a fixed term and at a fixed rent.  It’s worked really well for me – so much so that I’m looking for other potential properties to buy and do the same thing.  
“The rent is lower than on the open market but having the rent guaranteed and the management handled by the council adds to the value and makes it stack up.”

Cllr Bill Randall, chair of the Housing Committee, said:

‘Demand massively outstrips supply for housing in Brighton & Hove. Homes standing around empty for long periods of time are unacceptable, and that’s why our empty property team works hard with owners to bring more than 150 wasted homes back into use every year to house those in need.

“We understand that there can be complex and sensitive reasons for homes remaining empty and we will work with owners to overcome them. We will always consider using our enforcement powers to bring back into use any home that has been listed as empty for more than two years.

“The extra money we have obtained for this work is limited.  So my message  to property owners is bring your empty homes forward now and we will see how we can work together to put them to good use.

“I also appeal to residents to tell us about homes in their neighbourhoods that have been empty for some time. Help us fill the empties.”