CAMBRIDGE City Council is set to review its Empty Homes Policy which sets out the action it takes in relation to empty properties in Cambridge – whether through assistance and advice or through formal enforcement..
The revised policy includes the assistance the council can offer owners of long-term empty homes including the recently introduced interest-free loans scheme which offers property owners up to £25,000 to pay for renovations.
These loans are made with the understanding that the previously empty homes will then be rented through Town Hall Lettings, the council’s not-for-profit lettings agency, for a minimum of two years - with the loan being repaid to the council through the rental income.
The council and Town Hall Lettings have recently worked successfully with the owners of two previously empty properties to bring them back into occupation as affordable rented accommodation. It is hoped that the Empty Homes Loan Scheme will help build upon this success.
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 owners on how to rent or sell the properties.
Making best use of existing housing and making empty properties available for people in need of affordable housing are important aspects of the council’s housing strategy.
The revised Empty Homes Policy also details the council’s enforcement powers which it can take in relation to empty properties, particularly if the empty property is in a state of disrepair or having an adverse impact on a local area.
There are currently estimated to be 545 properties in Cambridge which have been empty for more than six months, a figure which includes unoccupied properties on new developments. Eight are undergoing major repairs or structural alterations in order to be made habitable and a further 66 are thought to have been empty for more than two years.
The council’s empty homes work largely focuses on properties that have been empty for a long period of time, particularly those empty for more than two years, or those where the owner does not appear to be working towards occupation of their property – which can be for a variety of reasons.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Homes that have been empty for a long period could provide more much-needed home for people in Cambridge. In addition, the longer homes remain empty, the more chance there is that they will fall into misuse or disrepair.
“That’s why it is in everyone’s interests to try and get as many empty homes as possible back into use. We know that that schemes like interest-free loans for renovation work and reductions on VAT can help owners of properties that are currently unoccupied. We would urge anyone with an empty property, or indeed anyone who knows of an empty property near where they live to get in touch with the council.”
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.
The proposed amendments to the council’s Empty Homes Policy will be considered at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 17 January.