Issue - meetings

Empty Property Strategy

Meeting: 26/04/2017 - Housing Panel (Panel of the Scrutiny Committee) (Item 94)

94 Empty Properties pdf icon PDF 110 KB

 

Background Information

The Panel requested a report on Council approaches to dealing with empty properties ahead of a refresh of the Empty Property Strategy 2013-18.

Why is it on the agenda?

For the Panel to note and comment on the empty dwellings briefing.

Who has been invited to comment?

·         Cllr Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing;

·         Frances Evans, Strategy & Service Development Manager;

·         Melanie Mutch, Empty Property Officer.

 

 

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Empty Property Officer introduced the report.  She said that she had been in post since 2005 and that the Council had had an empty property strategy in place since 2009.  Since then the number of empty properties in the city had reduced from around 900 to about 300 currently, with 75 of these empty for more than 2 years and 25 for over 10 years.  This decrease couldn’t be solely accredited to Council interventions, which involved officers from a number of different services, and some decrease may have occurred anyway due to market factors.  The strategy was not due for a refresh and a consultation would take place over the summer.

 

The Empty Property Officer advised that an empty property was defined as any dwelling that had been continuously unoccupied for over 6 months.  Second homes were covered by different legislation and owners needed to demonstrated that they lived there at least once a year, for example by producing utility bills.

 

In response to a question about a proposal to target empty commercial premises, the Empty Property Officer said that she is made aware of 3-4 sites per year.  Legislation restricted enforcement opportunities for non-dwelling properties but Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) could be an option in some cases.

 

The Panel asked questions about the circumstances around some specific empty properties in the city and heard that all cases were different and the Council used a range of approaches to encourage owners to bring empty dwellings back into use.  Owners of empty properties often had a defence so in many cases achieving successful outcomes required a lot of support and effort.

 

The Panel asked what resources would be required to support a substantial CPO programme.  The Empty Property Officer advised that the CPO process was immensely time consuming and while the Council was gaining more experience in this area, enhanced in-house legal expertise and capacity would be needed.  The Council could also look at facilitating CPOs on behalf of external financiers.  One issue with CPOs was that the Council needed to demonstrate that empty dwellings were causing harm and found that neighbours often retracted complaints if they thought the property would be used for social housing. 

 

The Panel queried the timing of the consultation and received assurances that avenues such as Tenants in Touch would be used to encourage residents to report empty properties, which they could do anonymously online. 

 

The Empty Property Officer explained that the figures in Appendix 2 for the numbers of properties brought back into use were affected by the numbers of new builds coming onto the market, hence a minus figure in year 6.

 

The Panel agreed to scrutinise the new empty property strategy and voiced support for the additional use of CPO powers.