RESIDENTS are being asked to help bring empty properties back into use during National Empty Homes Week this week (16-22 October).
Making empty properties available for people in need of affordable housing forms an important part of Cambridge City Council’s housing strategy. The council is asking residents to report any properties they think may be empty in the city, and is offering support to any owners of empty properties to help bring them back into residential use.
There are currently estimated to be 456 properties in Cambridge which have been empty for more than six months, 68 which are thought to have been empty for more than two years, and 64 which are currently undergoing major repairs or structural alterations in order to be made habitable.
The council has helped owners to bring 13 properties back into use in the last six months, many of which had been empty for a substantial period of time, including one which created a five-bedroom shared house out of a derelict three-storey house.
Some owners are also choosing to rent their empty properties through Town Hall Lettings, the council’s not-for profit lettings agency. This provides the owner with a regular income and has given secure, affordable rented housing to workers in the city.
The council launched its Empty Homes Loan Scheme recently, to offer owners of long-term empty properties an interest-free loan for renovations to bring them back to a good standard for residents.
In return for the loan, the council asks for the homes to be rented through Town Hall Lettings for a minimum of two years, with the loan being repaid through the rental income.
The council can also assist owners of properties which have been empty longer than two years to apply for a VAT reduction on building costs if bringing them back into residential use, as well as advise them on how to rent or sell the properties.
National Empty Homes Week highlights work being done across the country to tackle the problem of properties remaining empty despite the shortage of affordable housing nationwide.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “We remain committed to bringing as many empty properties back into use as possible, so would really encourage anyone who suspects a property has been standing empty for some time to get in touch with us.
“We’re well aware that empty properties can have a negative effect on a neighbourhood. We recently took enforcement action against the owner of one when the condition of the property was causing a statutory nuisance to neighbours.
“We also understand that the owners of empty properties are sometimes in a difficult situation themselves. Our innovative new loan scheme is just one of the ways the council can help turn them back into homes which would make a real difference to people’s lives.
If you are the owner of an empty property, and would like to discuss how the council can help bring it back into residential use, call 01223 457622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are aware of an empty property in the city, you can report it anonymously using the same contact details; or use the ‘report it’ button on the council website at www.cambridge.gov.uk/empty-homes.