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Thousands of homes sit empty in Suffolk despite UK housing shortage

Thousands of homes in Suffolk sit empty, new figures reveal Picture: THINKSTOCK

Thousands of homes in Suffolk sit empty, new figures reveal Picture: THINKSTOCK

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Thousands of homes across Suffolk sit empty despite a national shortage in housing, new figures reveal.

Data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that, despite a significant improvement in the last ten years, a vast number of homes remain vacant.

Figures show that in October last year, when the most recent count was taken, there were 1,215 vacant homes in Ipswich.

In St Edmundsbury there were 975, in Forest Heath 844, Mid Suffolk had 839 while Babergh had 905. In Suffolk Coastal there were 1,450 vacant homes while Waveney had 1,458.

Polly Neate, chief executive of charity Shelter, said that making sure properties were occupied is part of the answer to solving the country’s housing shortage.

She said: “In the midst of a homelessness crisis it is of course frustrating to see houses left empty. But the fact is that even if we filled every one of these, there still wouldn’t be nearly enough homes to solve the problem.”

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils said they had managed to significantly reduce the number of long-term empty properties by working to organise renovation grants and link rent to the Local Housing Allowance, thereby ensuring the affordability of houses being returned to use.

Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk councils’ cabinet member for housing, said: “Both Councils have been encouraging the owners on empty homes to bring them back into use with some success.

“For us, any home left empty for a long period is a waste, especially as we might be able to help.”

She said the councils offered an Empty Homes Grant to help get an empty property up to scratch as well as charging 150% council tax charge on properties that have been empty for two or more years.

Cllr Jill Wilshaw, Mid Suffolk Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The reduction in empty homes in our district since 2008 is the result of much hard work at Mid Suffolk, and we know there is more to come to make more homes available.”

Cllr Jan Osborne, Babergh cabinet member for housing, said: “The fall in empty homes over the last decade is good news, but we’re not going to stop there: we want more of these houses to meet our housing need and are continuing to work with owners to bring them back into use.”

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David Vincent

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EADT writer David Vincent has more than 40 years experience in Suffolk. He has explored the highways and byeways of East Anglia, meeting homeowners, developers and estate agents from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh and Colchester to Diss.

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