1 December 2014

Almost 2,000 empty homes brought back into use in Brighton & Hove

Almost 2,000 empty homes in Brighton & Hove have been brought back into use since 2001 as part of multiple efforts to tackle the city’s housing crisis.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s empty homes team brought 1,900 privately owned homes back into use in the last 13 years. In the last financial year 169 have been returned alone, beating recent averages of 150 each year.

The impressive figures come as the council reaffirmed its commitment to this work by signing up to the Empty Homes Agency ‘Pledge’ to tackle empty properties and ensure they are returned to use as homes. This pledge comes during National Empty Homes Week.

National Empty Homes Week is a national awareness event organised annually by the Empty Homes Agency, which is a campaigning charity dedicated to returning empty homes to use. It runs from 1 to 5 December 2014.

The city’s empty homes service was set up in the 1990s and at the time was one of the first in the country.

As well as providing much needed homes across different housing tenures - private sale and rent and council leasing - this performance in the past four years has netted the council additional income of £1.5million. This is based on the payment of New Homes Bonus for empty properties returned to use.

Empty properties can blight a neighbourhood and cause distress for those living nearby as well as being a wasted resource in a city that desperately needs more housing.  

The team acknowledge that there can be complex and personal reasons why people leave a property empty so they always begin by working with owners where possible.  But of course as a last resort the team will take enforcement action.

New initiatives planned include an update of the Empty Property Action Plan setting out how and why the council takes action on empty properties, and a clearer Enforcement Protocol outlining action that will be taken to ensure properties are improved and returned to use when negotiation has failed.

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

‘Our empty property team works successfully with the owners of empty properties every day with great results and we want to do more.  We are proud to be associated with National Empty Homes Week and are happy to sign up to the Empty Homes Agency ‘Pledge’  confirming our commitment to dealing with empty properties and seeing that they are returned to use as homes.’

‘The fact is that demand massively outstrips supply for housing in Brighton & Hove. Housing that stands around empty for long periods of time is unacceptable, attracts anti-social behaviour such as fly tipping and brings the local community down.

“We understand that there are often complex reasons why a home is empty and try to avoid penalising those who have genuine reasons so we try to work with owners to bring properties back to use rather than taking enforcement action.”