Friday, 19 March 2010

Empty homes - why is the council not doing more ?

This isn't the fault of the officers, there is a policy vacuum we asked the following question at the recent council meeting.

There are plenty of empty houses, but the proposals are to build 2000 more houses on green fields.

3. Question from Councillor Nigel Roberts

Please could the Executive Councillor answer, how many empty houses are there in Bath and North East Somerset ?

How many basements and areas above shops are available to convert to housing?

How many times has the Council used Compulsory Purchase Orders to bring back houses into occupation?

Answer from Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Housing

Using Council Tax records we estimate that there are 528 properties that have been empty for 6 months or more. However, it is important to remember that this figure includes properties in a range of conditions and circumstances, for example, going through probate, empty though in the process of being sold etc. In addition it does not include second homes.

Property Services have confirmed that there are no basements, nor areas above Council-owned shops, where residential use would be feasible due to a variety of physical, financial or statutory reasons. However, we have no information on privately owned shops.

The Council has in the past promoted the living over the shop (LOTS) initiative and as a result has let a number of basements and upper floors to Housing Associations who have converted space. Additionally a number of flats are let to Somer Community Housing Trust and where Somer's tenant vacates these properties have become available to the Council for sale.

The Council has not used CPO to bring properties back into use. However, Housing Services are currently developing their strategy for the recovery of such properties. This includes a prioritisation system that will result in us dealing with the properties on a worst first basis and using a full range of incentives and ultimately enforcement activity.

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