Saturday, 28 March 2015

Further £50 million to address empty homes

The government has announced an extra £50 million of funding for empty homes in areas where it is a particular problem.

The fund is in addition to £100 million for work to improve empty homes previously announced by ministers in October 2010.

The extra money, unveiled as part of the government’s housing strategy, is a win for Liberal Democrat ministers who have long championed bringing vacant properties back into use as a way of solving the UK’s housing shortage.

The £50 million will be match funded by local partners to allow councils and landlords to refurbish homes. There will also be a bidding round for community groups to bring properties into use for affordable housing, although there will be no fixed delivery model prescribed. Instead, local needs will be taken into consideration.

Bids for the money will have to prove that the properties have been empty for ‘a significant period of time’ and that they would remain so without extra funding.

The strategy also reiterates the government’s promise to allow councils to charge a levy on long-term empty properties first announced by communities minister Andrew Stunell in September.

Added to that, the government is encouraging providers to use the green deal to improve the energy efficiency of properties they bring back into use. The strategy suggests that £2 million from the money for the green deal will be used to bring 200 vacant homes into use in this financial year.

There are also plans to revamp empty dwelling management orders early next year to limit their use to the worst empty properties. Councils would have to provide more evidence to residential property tribunals to obtain an order, including information regarding whether the empty property has been causing a nuisance to the community, and whether there is community support of the proposal for the local housing authority to take control of the empty home.

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