Ipswich: Success in battle to reduce number of empty homes

Councillor John Mowles

Councillor John Mowles - Credit: Contributed

The battle to reduce the number of empty properties in Ipswich is being won, according to a housing boss.

There are currently 1,100 privately-owned houses in the borough that have been empty for six months or more, and since April, 30 previously empty homes have been brought back into use.

John Mowles, Ipswich Borough Council’s housing portfolio-holder, said: “We are doing our very best to fill empty homes.

“The figure is coming down as we are taking a considerable amount of action.

“Empty houses look unsightly, they encourage vermin and they bring the area down. When people are on housing waiting lists, it seems scandalous that we have them.

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“As a last resort we will look to pursue a Compulsory Purchase Order, where properties have been empty for some time.”

Although there have been no actual CPOs made, Mr Mowles said when the process begins, they have been finding that homeowners take action.

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Mr Mowles explained how in the first instance the council contacts the owners of empty properties, which can take a while to find.

If there have been multiple attempts to contact them with no response, they indicate that a CPO could be issued.

He said: “We have been taking some of the last resort cases to the Executive, and offering to take the processes forward if other measures fail.”

In some cases the homes belong to elderly people, those in care or from broken families.

“The council has also been handing out improvement grants to help people refurbish their homes so they can be lived in again or sold on.

In January the authority launched a new scheme called ‘Report it empty’ which encourages members of the public to report empty properties to the council so that an investigation can be carried out.

Mr Mowles said: “More and more calls are coming through about these homes and we have been looking into 100 more houses that appear to be empty.”

If you own an empty home and want more information on schemes to bring it back into use, call the council’s private sector housing team on 01473 433003.

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