Three-year programme to drive down long-term empty home numbers in East Suffolk

East Suffolk Council has agreed an ambitious new programme as part of its commitment to tackling the issue of long-term empty homes in the area.

At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, councillors approved revenue funding to deliver a three-year long-term empty homes programme.

The appointment of a dedicated Empty Homes Officer was among proposals put forward to drive policy.

Long-term empty properties are defined as residential properties that have been empty for at least two years.

In East Suffolk, 280 properties in private ownership have been empty for more than two years. These will be prioritised for action according to type, location, duration unoccupied, and housing need in the surrounding area. 

The dedicated programme will be designed to bring homes back into use via a variety of options.

Cllr Richard Kerry, East Suffolk Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Housing, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource and can cause blight on neighbourhoods, attracting anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping.

“We recognise the value of bringing an empty home back into the housing stock. The result can be a modernised, more energy efficient home, utilising fewer resources than a new build.

“We also realise that solutions need to be tailored to each case and owner, often requiring time to explore all options.

“As a local authority, we can play a key role in opening up the opportunity for investment and restoration where it may have stalled.

“Costs of all actions and their impact on overall long-term empty homes will be kept under review, and the programme revised and tailored to maximise effectiveness.”

Examples of empty homes becoming part of the Council’s own stock, to provide affordable accommodation and much needed regeneration, include 560 London Road, Lowestoft, converted into a House in Multiple Occupation, and 98 Park Road, Lowestoft, now occupied as a five-bed council house. 

Funding to support the development of a long-term empty homes programme is available from reserves created from the New Homes Bonus (NHB) claimed by East Suffolk Council from central government in recent years. The revenue cost of the service is estimated at £281,958 for three years. 

Property purchases would initially use the reserve as a source of funding, with capital receipts providing a replenishment when properties are sold.

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