Empty Homes Week 2021 demonstrated local councils work and calls for national Government action Empty Homes Week 2021 saw Councils across England taking action - here's a selection of reports: In Sunderland the Council has made bringing empties into use a high priority and importantly has linked this to expanding affordable housing supply This article explains how they are investing £59m to expand housing supply and the role empty homes have to play: https://www.sr-news.com/2021/02/25/sunderland-council-investing-59m-in-expanding-its-social-housing-portfolio/ This earlier local media coverage reported the launch of the strategy: https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/politics/council/plan-bring-hundreds-empty-sunderland-homes-back-use-heres-how-2528375 In Derby the City Council coordinated a campaign of action and report that: They have a revised empty homes strategy out for consultation – this aims to increase the number of empty homes brought into use, increase affordable housing supply, improve the thermal efficiency of empty homes brought into use and increase funding secured and debt recovered from unresponsive owners. They are also promoting opportunities to lease property to registered providers of social housing. And are working with the YMCA and Action Housing on this. These providers looking for both property ready to let and empty homes in need of work. The council will be supporting any bid providers make to the affordable housing programme for lease and repair They are also promoting opportunities for owners to sell empty homes to the council to increase affordable housing supply by bringing these homes into use Dorset Council aims to reduce the number of empty homes in the county: https://www.dorsetecho.co.uk/news/19092007.dorset-council-aims-reduce-number-empty-homes-county/ Action is being taken to reduce the 400 long-term empty houses in Dorset and the council is highlighting the problem during Empty Homes Week. Demand for housing in Dorset is high, with more than 6,000 people on the housing register and the Housing Standards Team is urging people to come forward to report or seek help to deal with the issue. "Where empty homeowners don't want to work with us, we won't shy away from taking enforcement action to achieve our aims of creating more homes and improving our communities." From April 2021, houses empty for 10 years or more will be charged 400% council tax, an increase from £2,000 to £8,000 a year for a typical band D empty home. The council has also warned that enforcement action will be taken if an empty home is affecting the local community. Hundreds of homes in Horsham District are sitting empty for months on end: https://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/people/hundreds-homes-horsham-district-are-sitting-empty-months-end-3130966 Horsham District Council said there are around 550 homes that have been empty for more than 6 months and says it wants to bring as many of them back into use to ease housing shortages. The biggest incentive is to gain regular rental income from letting, or a lump sum from selling your property. The Council’s Environmental Health team can offer empty homeowners grant assistance and other services. The Council also works in partnership with the Sussex YMCA to offer a leasing scheme to owners as an alternative to improving or letting the property themselves. Empty properties are wasted homes, when we have increasing numbers of people facing the threat of homelessness. Lendology the Community Interest Company working with 18 councils across the South West used the week to promote its work to provide Home Improvement Loans including a dedicated Empty Property Loan to support renovation works to bring empty properties back into use. How the council is tackling Oxford’s 800 empty homes: https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/19104867.council-tackling-empty-homes-oxford/ According to Oxford City Council, there are approximately 349 empty homes in the city and the number rises to 800 once those exempt from council tax are accounted for. Since the council’s intervention in 2020/2021 they have been able to bring 35 empty homes back into use. The council are encouraging property owners to work with them to reduce the housing shortage and in return will provide advice and information Homeless housed in empty Oxford University homes: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-56086392 The Nuffield College homes, empty for 18 months, have been renovated so 16 homeless individuals have accommodation for the next two years. The college has been working with Aspire to offer homes that will remain affordable for residents even after they find a job which will help rebuild their lives. "We've been working with Aspire to develop an affordable place to live and that doesn't change if people's lives change, and they get jobs." Lichfield District Council takes part in Empty Homes Week 2021: https://www.tamworthinformed.co.uk/empty-homes-2021-160221/ Residents who are struggling to bring empty properties back into use are being urged to come forward, in Lichfield District there are around 120 long-term empty properties. The Empty Homes Week is a campaign organised by Action on Empty Homes, which uses the week to highlight the problem of long-term empty properties across the UK. The council’s housing team are willing to work with owners of empty properties with a view to getting them brought back into domestic use. As part of Empty Homes Week, the council is urging anyone who is struggling with an empty property and needs help to bring it back into use, or anyone who is concerned about an empty property in their area, to get in touch for advice. Council helps out vacant properties in Cambridge back into use: https://www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk/news/council-helps-put-vacant-properties-cambridge-back-use Cambridge City Council is backing Empty Homes Week to bring empty properties back into use and since March 2020, 21 empty properties have been brought back as affordable homes. Due to high housing demand within Cambridge, the council takes empty homes very seriously and tackling the issue is an important part of its overall housing strategy. The council actively works with property owners to bring empty properties back into use and even purchases unused properties itself to turn into affordable housing, through its Housing Development Agency. Almost 2,000 privately-owned empty properties brought back into use in Wolverhampton: https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/wolverhampton/2021/02/16/almost-2000-privately-owned-empty-properties-brought-back-into-use-in-wolverhampton/ The Empty Property Strategy, launched in 2010, has seen more than 1,900 unoccupied houses brought back into use over 11 years and is providing more affordable housing to people in Wolverhampton. This means that landlords are seeing rental income, the value of their properties increase, while local shops and services are benefiting from new residents occupying the houses – providing a boost to the local economy. This work is having the equivalent of building hundreds of new houses across the city Council chiefs aim to ensure the properties are sold to new homeowners or rented to tenants by working with owners to encourage them to carry out the required works. Empty property owners in Cumbria offered support and advice: https://cumbriacrack.com/2021/02/17/empty-property-owners-offered-support-and-advice/ There are currently more than 1,077 empty and/or exempt properties within the Carlisle area and homeowners are being offered support and advice from the city council. Not only do empty homes have an impact on the visibility of communities but are also a waste of resources and dealing with empty homes can have social, economic and regenerative benefits. As part of the City Council’s empty homes strategy, the private sector housing team aims to reduce the level of empty properties and help meet local housing needs by introducing accommodation back into the market. In November 2019, letters went to empty property owners of over 2 years, offering potential help in the form of a small grant. Carlisle City Council agreed to allocate £23,200 to this project and the properties were available after 6 months. Carlisle City Council has also adjusted the Empty Homes Premium Council Tax rates, 100% for properties that have been empty for 2-5 years and 200% if empty over five years or more. More than 2,000 properties are standing empty in North East Lincolnshire: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/property/more-2000-properties-stood-empty-5015306 There are more than 2,000 empty properties in North East Lincolnshire which could ease housing demand, ranging from small flats to large houses. 502 of them have stood empty for more than two years and 148 have been empty for more than five years. Council and Engie officers are carrying out a huge amount of work to reduce the number of empty homes in the area, meeting with investors and property owners to try to iron out any issues that may be causing a property to stand empty for long periods of time. Owners of empty properties asked to help tackle housing shortage in RBKC: https://londonnewsonline.co.uk/owners-of-empty-properties-asked-to-help-tackle-housing-shortage/ Owners of empty or under-utilised properties in Kensington and Chelsea are being asked to bring them back into use to help tackle the borough’s housing shortage. The council will be contacting landlords of empty homes to encourage them to offer properties at a subsidised rate, especially key workers. Key workers have been travelling from across London to keep our essential services going in the pandemic and I would love to be able to bring empty homes back into use to give them a local housing option. One in every 40 homes is identified as empty in a borough with the highest land values and average house prices of £1.4m. ‘When landlords refuse to engage, we need the law to help us and we’ll be asking the government to reconsider our request for more local powers.’ Grants available to renovate empty homes in Ipswich: https://planetradio.co.uk/greatest-hits/suffolk/news/grants-available-to-renovate-empty-homes-in-ipswich/ Ipswich Borough Council is offering renovation grants (ranging from £10,000 to £20,000) for owners to transform their empty homes that have been empty for more than a year. Long term empty homes are wasted resources that increase crime and anti-social behaviour in communities therefore Ipswich Borough council is determined to get them back into use through offering advice and financial assistance. Landlords are not only just securing rental income, but they are providing local people with quality homes and supporting homelessness in Ipswich Empty Homes Week 2021: Cllr Eleanor Southwood on Brent's work: https://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/cllr-southwood-empty-homes-week-2021-7309122 Reducing the number of empty properties in Brent is a priority as they are a blight on the local area, attract anti-social behaviour, illegal dumping of rubbish and vermin. From 2020/2021, 28 vacant properties were turned into homes for families who would otherwise have been homeless. By April 2021, the empty property team will have allocated at least 29 more properties for families in housing need and a further 63 empty properties will have been brought back into use without our financial assistance. The empty property team works hard with landlords to bring properties back into use, but the council also has legal powers to buy vacant homes. 1,000 empty homes in South Somerset and what the council is doing about it: https://www.somersetlive.co.uk/news/somerset-news/1000-empty-homes-south-somerset-5005320 There are more than 1,000 empty homes in South Somerset and during Empty Homes Week, the Council is taking the opportunity to raise awareness to help bring empty properties back into use. Across South Somerset, there are currently 1,065 properties that have been unoccupied for 3 months or more, but the council is attempting to help owners with an option to take out a loan to make improvements to their properties. The council recognises the value of turning these properties into homes and rather than relying on enforcement action, they are working with Lendology CIC to provide finance options instead. The loan has been developed with options for deferred repayment, which could be particularly useful for those unable to make monthly repayments until the property has been renovated. Taylor&Emmet Introduced Free Empty Homes Training: https://www.businessupnorth.co.uk/tayloremmet-introduced-free-empty-homes-training/ Taylor&Emmet LLP is marking Empty Homes Week by offering free training to the public sector. Sessions are being provided by a specialist inheritance tracing and empty homes team (launched in 2018), which helps organisations address legal issues arising from empty homes. The inheritance tracing and empty homes department facilitates empty homes being put back into use, by investigating property titles, tracing the next of kin of deceased owners and making Court of Protection applications. Experts will highlight the legal options available to empty homes practitioners and professionals, when faced with an array of issues. The Big Issue also ran a feature on Action on Empty Homes and National Empty Homes Week 2021: Entitled, ‘How many empty homes are there in the UK?’, the article reported ‘Campaigners are calling for government action on rising numbers of long-term empty properties across the country as part of Empty Homes Week. ‘Spearheaded by Action on Empty Homes, a charity that raises awareness about the “waste” of unused properties, campaigners hope to pressure ministers to work with local councils and tackle the issue. ‘More than 120 local authorities are taking part and hope to receive more powers from central Government to house people who need help.’ https://www.bigissue.com/latest/how-many-empty-homes-are-there-in-the-uk/ Meanwhile in Wales (where it was also Empty Homes Week) the focus in Gwynedd shifted to ‘second homes’: Gwynedd holiday homeowners facing council tax being doubled next year https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-56091721 The council is going ahead with plans to double council tax for holiday homeowners in Gwynedd and increase premiums to 100% for second homeowners. The money raised from the council tax has formed a £77m scheme to build more properties and reduce a rising social housing waiting list as 60% of locals are priced out of the housing market. Gwynedd has more holiday homes than anywhere else in Wales with 6,849 or 10.77% of the county's entire housing stock now being designated as second homes. The council has also approved a report to borrow £15.4 million to buy 100 houses to let for an affordable rent as it wants to provide more homeless accommodation and social housing. In addition Action on Empty Homes was pleased to be able to promote many more information campaigns online and on social media, these included the following selection of councils and partner organisations, who were active on platforms including Twitter and Facebook: Amber Valley DC, Barnet, Barnsley MBC, Basingstoke Council, Blaby DC, Birmingham City Council, Blackburn with Darwen, Brent, Brighton & Hove CC, Bristol, Bevan Brittan, Calderdale MBC, Cambridge CC, Carlisle CC, Charnwood BC, Cherwell DC, Cheshire East, Cheshire West, CapacityGrid, Community Gateway Preston HA, Dover DC, Dorset, Derby CC, Derbyshire County Council, East Devon DC, Erewash BC, Fenland Council, Folkestone & Hythe DC, Finders International, Gentoo Group HA, Greenwoods GRM, Harborough DC, Horsham DC, Hull City Council, Harrow, Homefinder UK, Ipswich, Kent County Council & No Use Empty, Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC), London / GLA, Leeds CC, Lewisham, Lichfield, Lendology CIC, Liberata, Manchester CC, Mendip DC, Mid-Devon, MRI Social Housing, Murray Birrell CS, North Norfolk DC, Northumberland County Council, Nottingham City Council, National CLT Network, Oxford CC, Preston CC, Phoenix Housing Coop, Rochford DC, Rother DC, Ryedale DC, Sefton MBC, Sevenoaks DC, Somerset West & Taunton, Stratford upon Avon, Southwark, Southend on Sea BC, Solihull, Stockport Council, Stoke-on-Trent CC, Sunderland CC, Swindon BC, SASC, Teignbridge DC, Telford & Wrekin Council, Thanet, The Big Issue, Torbay, Taylor & Emmett, The Social Biz, Winchester CC, Wirral Council, Wolverhampton CC, Worcester CC, Wales Communities Creating Homes Hub, Wolves Homes. For more on the week see this article - this includes links to a series of blogs explaining the action we are calling for from Government.