Amy Forster, BMBC Empty Homes Officer, was welcomed to the meeting and provided Members with an update regarding empty homes across the North Area Council. Currently there are 1659 empty homes across the Borough, 266 of which are in the North Area Council area, representing 16% of the total. Empty properties are categorised according to the length of time they have been empty, with the majority falling within the 6 months to 2 years category, although some have been empty in excess of 10 years. Issues include disrepair and overgrown gardens, which impacts negatively on other properties in the local area. Financial assistance of up to £15,000 is available to bring the properties back to an acceptable standard. Reasons behind the empty homes are numerous, ranging from absent landlords to family disputes, mental health problems and difficulties around probate, which can take many years to resolve.
The service currently works with Humankind Housing who offer quality accommodation with intensive housing management to help vulnerable tenants live independently by way of a 10 year lease. Joint work also takes place with Berneslai Homes on a purchase and repair scheme and use is made of Berneslai Homes’ property management service. The service have a range of statutory powers, including enforced sale but prefers to work with owners and landlord on an amicable basis. A number of Members were aware of concerns in their local areas and were asked to pass information on to Amy for further investigation where appropriate.
(i) Amy be thanked for the work which she had been done to date on behalf of local residents, and
(ii) The update be noted.