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20-year scheme sees 1000s of empty homes brought back into use

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20-year scheme sees 1000s of empty homes brought back into use

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government

20-year scheme sees 1000s of empty homes brought back into use 20-year scheme sees 1000s of empty homes brought back into use

Image: Housing via Shutterstock

A council's 20-year scheme to tackle empty homes has resulted in over 2,000 residences being brought back into use.

Southampton City Council says that for the twentieth year running is has reached its target of filling at least 100 empty properties.

Latest estimates suggest that there are around 2,700 vacant homes in the city at any given time.

Most are only empty for a short time, such as when a private tenant moves out and before another one moves in. Most of the homes are privately owned.

The council says that properties can be empty for a number of reasons, which are often complex and difficult for the property owner.

Owners, the council says, may have reluctantly had to move home; elderly residents may have had to move into residential care accommodation; and there are a range of legal issues such as probate or bankruptcy.

The complexity of some cases means often it takes considerable time for the council to help the owner work through to a resolution.

The council’s work is intelligence-led and involves working with landlords and homeowners to encourage and support them to use their properties more productively, such as through housing association leasing schemes, through the council’s Homeseekers and Lettings service, or bringing them to the market.

The council works with property owners offering ‘signposting’ advice and support around the most suitable options available to them, such as how VAT on a range of renovation and conversion works can be reduced from 20% to 5%.

Cllr Warwick Payne, the council’s cabinet member for housing and sustainability, said: “Getting empty homes back in use, whether for the sale or rental markets, is helpful in addressing the increasing demand for housing in Southampton. Along with new homes, we also work to ensure as many existing ones are filled as possible.

“Returning empty homes to use is a major achievement. It means more people can get on the housing ladder while improving neighbourhoods and deterring anti-social behaviour.

“If owners of empty properties need help in determining what to do, the council can provide friendly and useful advice and I’d encourage them to get in touch.”

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