National Empty Homes week is 15th – 21st February this year. This is an opportunity for local authorities across the country to raise the profile of empty homes and highlight the work being done to reduce the number of long-term empty homes.
This event is spearheaded by Action on Empty Homes, a charity that raises awareness about the “waste” of unused properties that could be providing homes to vulnerable residents, and its campaigners hope to pressure ministers to work with local councils and tackle the issue.
Brighton & Hove Labour Councillors support the Local Government Association (LGA) call for new powers to acquire empty homes to be at the heart of a Government response to dealing with the current Temporary Accommodation crisis, which sees over 127,000 children trapped in Temporary Accommodation during the pandemic and many more at risk of homelessness.
We also support Action on Empty Homes calling for a National Empty Homes Strategy featuring new powers for councils and new investment from Government.
A new national strategy would:
- Create a national fund to support councils in bringing tens of thousands of long-term empty homes back into use through a locally focused programme of grants and loans.
- Introduce new powers to allow local councils to bring empty homes back into use – principally an improved Empty Dwelling Management Order power and streamlining of Compulsory Purchase Order powers
- Ensure owners taking advantage of this programme agree nomination rights and fair rents with councils, so that homes brought into use can help alleviate local housing need and reduce the £1.2bn billion national temporary accommodation bill.
- Create a fund for local authorities to help local community-led housing projects which sustainably refurbish long-term empty homes and neglected buildings to create high quality, well-insulated, affordable homes.
Labour’s Opposition Spokesperson for Housing, Councillor Gill Williams says:
“Whist in administration we were successful in pursuing an active buy-back scheme of empty homes, and we are continuing to support this work from opposition.
“Empty homes are a really important issue, and I’m pleased we’ve overseen positive work to tackle it over the past few years as a council.
“However, it remains a problem, because of the increased financialisaton of the housing market and the lack of affordable homes, as well as being exacerbated by the rise of Airbnb.
“I urge anyone who is struggling with bringing an empty property back into use, or anyone who is concerned about an empty property to get in touch with the council for help.
“Clearly, local authorities need more resources from the Government to tackle this problem, but the council does already have some powers to stop empty properties going to waste (including compulsory purchase orders and enforced sale procedures), and I would urge that these powers be used more actively and efficiently.”