Councillors call for faster action to re-use empty homes as thousands in Shropshire await housing

Hundreds of empty homes are unoccupied in Shropshire at the same time as the lack of affordable homes reaches crisis point, say councillors.

Councillors call for faster action to re-use empty homes as thousands in Shropshire await housing

Shropshire Council is currently developing an empty homes strategy but things aren't moving fast enough for some councillors in the south of the county.

They say between 6,000 and 7,000 families are in need of homes in Shropshire. The council said earlier this year there were 1,524 long term empty homes, with another 722 where the owner is in care.

“We simply do not have the luxury of years to build more affordable housing to rent and buy," said Councillor Heather Kidd (Chirbury and Worthen).

"The problem is with us now and rapidly getting worse. Now is the time for Shropshire Council to work with housing providers and developers and use reserves to build for our residents even if it means scrapping the North West Relief road!”

Councillor Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, public health and assets, agreed that empty homes are a "wasted resource", depriving people of a home and contributing to the need for more housing.

"It is only when properties stay empty longer than six months without any obvious signs of renovation or rental that they become true empty homes. They are a blight on local communities and may prevent investment in the area," he said.

Councillor Carroll revealed that the council is developing a strategy for dealing with empty homes. It is in draft form at the moment and being worked on by council officers.

He said: “Our empty properties group enables joint working between teams to return empty properties to use and to contact owners of empty properties to offer advice and support and, where necessary, utilise available enforcement powers.”

But for Councillor Kidd and Councillor Ruth Houghton (Bishop's Castle) action is far too slow. They accuse the council and housing associations of dragging their feet.

Councillor Houghton said: “It is so disappointing that Shropshire has so many long-term empty houses. For example Housing Associations in South Shropshire have around 68 houses empty and needing refurbishment. Many have been empty for months, others for years. There are no dates for the builders to even start work. Examples of this are in More, Lydham and Bishop’s Castle, exactly the places where people want to live.”

The housing crisis extends to the private sector, she said, where landlords have been evicting people to cash in on the property boom.

Councillor Houghton added: “In the South West of the county the ability to buy a home is simply unattainable. To buy a house in say Bishop’s Castle people need to borrow 11 to 12 times the average local wage and this is rising. Rental is the only option and the private rented sector rent has also inflated over the last year.

“Shropshire Council and all our housing providers must work in closer partnership to make sure these houses are let in weeks rather than in years. Our people deserve stable homes as quickly as possible.”

Councillor Kidd said she was also deeply disturbed by housing being sold off instead of renovating them.

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