CAMBRIDGE City Council is marking this year’s National Empty Homes Week by calling on residents to help them bring empty properties in Cambridge back into use.
Empty Homes Week is running until 6 March this year to highlight the problem of properties remaining unoccupied, despite a shortage of affordable housing in the city and countrywide.
According to government data there were 268,385 long term empty homes in England in 2020, including 310 in Cambridge. Despite the impact of the pandemic, the council has brought 40 properties back into occupation since April 2020.
The council supports owners of empty properties in Cambridge to bring their homes back into occupation. Not all owners are willing to engage with the council so enforcement powers can be used on occasions.
Following several attempts to engage with the owner of one empty property recently, the council carried out work to board up a rear door and make it secure, with costs forwarded to the owner. On another occasion an abandoned car parked right up against an empty property was attracting vandalism and led to complaints from neighbours. The council served the owner with a notice and followed this up by removing the car.
Another successful case involved a Cambridge property which had stood empty for over 10 years. After investigations the owner was found living abroad and the council was able to support them by visiting the empty home and arranging an estate agent’s valuation. This led to the sale of the house to a young family who subsequently carried out an entire refurbishment of the property which had been in a precarious condition.
The reasons behind the presence of empty homes are varied but can include:
- People suffering from mental health or financial problems who cannot cope with the challenge of bringing their home back into use.
- People inheriting properties which they are not aware of or able to deal with.
- Investors leaving properties empty.
The council investigates each case and tailors its support according to the individual situation.
If owners of empty properties are looking to bring properties back into use and ensure they reach their full potential, the council’s social lettings agency, Townhall Lettings, can also assist.
Townhall Lettings works to provide good quality, affordable private rented accommodation for tenants, and provide an all-round management service to landlords. It can also take care of any refurbishments, improvements or maintenance which may be needed.
Cllr Mike Todd-Jones, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “‘I’m very committed to working with our Empty Homes Officer to ensure that as many empty properties are brought back into use as possible. We have a serious housing shortage in our city and every empty home denies an individual or a family somewhere to live.
“Unfortunately, some owners of empty homes can hinder the council’s efforts to make the best use of housing stock and, while the council is proactive in identifying empty homes, we also need every assistance from the public to identify empty homes so that we can bring them back into use.
“Some properties are bought as investments and are left empty while they accrue value in a market where property prices continue to increase. There is no justification for an investor to leave a property empty – as these properties could be providing a home to people in need of one. Renting properties out while their capital value increases will not affect the investment, and those with the means to buy properties and leave them empty retain a certain social moral obligation to let them out as homes to others.”
Anyone owning a property that has been standing empty for some time – or who knows of a property in the city that is not being lived in – can get in touch with the council anonymously if preferred by phoning 01223 457900, emailing email@example.com or using the ‘Report an empty home’ link at www.cambridge.gov.uk/empty-homes.