Compulsory purchase powers could help tackle empty homes problem

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Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils are working to bring empty homes back into use - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Compulsory purchase powers and enforced sale could be used to bring back nearly 1,000 long-term empty homes in Babergh and Mid Suffolk into use.

Data for the two authorities indicated that as of February there were 446 homes in Babergh empty for six months or more, 74 of which were in excess of two years, while 528 were recorded vacant in Mid Suffolk for more than six months with 113 empty for two-years-plus.

A full-time empty homes officer was recruited in November and a new empty homes policy will be discussed by the councils’ joint scrutiny committee on April 25..

The policy report said the councils will work towards preventing a property being left empty and bring an empty property back into use as affordable accommodation.

December housing register figures demonstrated there were 783 applications for Babergh, while Mid Suffolk had 631. The councils said those empty homes could help address that demand.

Among options at the councils’ disposal are an Empty Dwelling Management Order where the authority effectively takes over the management of the building to secure a new occupant, or a voluntary purchase by the council to sell on the open market.

But more stringent measures are also on the table including an enforced purchase – where the council will force the sale of a property in order to recover costs accumulated through statutory notices against the property or owner – or compulsory purchase by the council where it is unlikely to be brought back into use by the existing owner.

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Elsewhere, the councils can offer an empty home renovation loan to bring a property back into use.

A spokeswoman for the two authorities said: “Bringing empty homes back into use is a sustainable way to help to meet local housing need and demand, while helping to reduce the potential for damage to neighbouring properties or antisocial behaviour.

“That’s why we’ve been helping owners for many years, through advice, grants, and loans, to secure a regular return on their property, while also providing good quality homes for local individuals and families.

“While we’re always keen to work with owners to find the right solutions with enforcement being a last resort, our empty homes policy would assist the enforcement process where required and ensure a consistent approach to tackling empty homes across the two districts for years to come.”