When news happens get involved. Send your pictures, views and video to us by text and email
Councillors agree measures to tackle empty home problem
COUNCILLORS have agreed measures to tackle the issue of empty homes to provide more housing for locals.
The borough council’s management committee agreed this action plan at a meeting, a combination of investigation and proactive work between the two authorities.
The action plan includes providing advice and assistance to property owners, publishing information leaflets, setting aside £150,000 for a loan scheme to help property owners with maintenance works, and confirming enforcement powers are brought back into use.
An empty homes officer was appointed last year to help the councils tackle the problem.
Borough housing spokesman Ray Nowak told the management committee it was a successful working party which had developed a way forward to ensure homes were brought back into use as soon as possible. Separate to this, the management committee agreed to commission experts to undertake a review of empty properties to enable the council access to a new government grant known as the New Homes Bonus (NHB).
The NHB is based on the amount of extra council tax revenue raised for new-build homes, conversions and long-term empty homes brought back into use.
It was agreed that Liberata is commissioned by the borough council to review empty property data.
The company’s fee is 35 per cent of the first year NHB payment for every property it can evidence it has been instrumental in removing from property records.
Liberata reckons the council could make more than £30,000 from the NHB next year, increasing to a total of more than £380,000 over six years.
Coun Ian Bruce was concerned about exactly what Liberata would be paid to do.
He said: “I’m not against an outside organisation helping us but unless they say they’re going to do x, y and z to get people into new homes we could be sitting with a company not doing anything on our behalf. We need assurance they’re going to take positive action.”
Coun Bruce was told Liberata would be collecting evidence to enable the council bring properties back into use.
Finance spokesman Peter Chapman said the council didn’t have the resources to do the work so was commissioning the firm, which has had success elsewhere.
Committee chairman Mike Goodman added: “Liberata is getting a percentage of the profit we wouldn’t be getting otherwise.”
He said the council may not have access to the NHB in future years and should ‘grab it’ while it’s available.