Council’s bid to bring empty homes back into use

Muriel Matters House
Muriel Matters House

Hastings Borough Council is looking to reduce homelessness in the town by bringing empty properties back into use.

Councillor Andy Batsford, the council’s lead member for housing said: “We first published our Empty Homes Strategy in 2003, and there were over 2000 empty homes in the town. This figure has reduced to around 800 privately owned empty homes, which is still far too many when there are so many people in the borough who need good quality, affordable housing.

“Everyone deserves to have a roof over their head. Bringing empty properties back into use is by far the easiest way to reduce the homelessness numbers. Our schemes help property owners to make their properties available, but we will force the issue if, regrettably, that becomes necessary.

“We know from experience that many owners need to be encouraged to bring their empty homes back into use. If appropriate, the council has the power to be enforce owners to make their properties available for sale or rent.

“The council has worked with the YMCA Downslink to lease empty homes for providing self-contained homes to young adults and families and we work with Optivo housing association to purchase and repair empty homes for social housing. Hastings Borough Council also works with Parity Trust (a not for profit bank) to provide interest relief on loans to home owners for bringing privately owned empty homes back into use.

“But as a last resort, Hastings Borough Council will take firm action, if necessary using our compulsory purchase powers. To date, we have taken possession of six empty homes that had been kept empty for a minimum of two years. These homes are now occupied, having been sold-on with an agreement with the new owner that the home will become occupied within a reasonable time.

“And over 100 owners have been notified that the first stage of the compulsorily purchase process has begun. The majority of these homes are now either occupied or being made ready for occupation or to be marketed for sale.

“We have consistently achieved our annual target to bring 70 homes back into use that were empty for over two years.”

Empty Homes Week is October 16-22, 2017.