Boarded-up homes

Empty homes problem ‘needs national plan’, say Welsh AMs

Committee outlines 13 suggested measures, including introducing specific council officers to oversee vacant properties.
17 October 2019 , Katie Coyne

A national action plan is needed to tackle the 27,000 empty homes in Wales, according to a cross party group of Welsh Assembly members.

The Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee (ELGC) has published a report, Empty Properties, outlining 13 measures the Welsh Government could take to bring these buildings back into use as homes.

The committee chair, John Griffiths, argued in his foreword that many owners didn’t wish to see their properties lying empty and idle and that they should be supported in bringing them back into use.

However, he also argued that enforcement action should be taken in a ‘higher number of cases’ as tackling empty homes could make a ‘significant contribution to wider community regeneration’.

He said: “It can make an area more attractive and increase available housing stock. It is important though, to take account of individual communities’ needs and to ensure action is tailored appropriately.”

As well as being a waste of a resource when housing is in short supply, the ELGC argued that empty homes attract anti-social behaviour and pose environmental health problems.

Griffiths added: “When attempts to tackle the problem informally fail, local authorities have powers to deal with empty properties; but this isn’t straightforward. It is time consuming and there is no certainty of it being successful.”

The ELGC made the following 13 recommendations:

- Create a national action plan
- Work closely with local authorities and partners on community approaches
- Explore having a specific local authority officer for empty homes
- Measure the success of bringing properties empty for 12 months back into use, rather than the current 6 months
- Develop a method of gathering data on empty properties
- Look at ways of establishing a regional or national source of legal expertise for empty property teams to access
- Review current statutory enforcement powers available to local authorities
- Press ahead with local authority empty homes enforcement action training
- Review support provided for schemes offering financial assistance to empty property owners
- Better understand the housing association sector’s empty homes projects
- Clarify the legal position around local authorities sharing information on empty properties
- Explore ring-fencing revenue collected by local authorities through the council tax premium on empty homes and whether it could be used for housing
- Find out whether people are trying to avoid paying the council tax premium

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