Around 1,000 homes stand empty across Telford and Wrekin, but a council strategy aims to bring more than a third of them back into use within five years.
In a report for the council’s cabinet, housing and regeneration chiefs write that the 2021-26 Empty Property Strategy will initially focus on the 214 homes that have been empty for two years or more, and aims to re-inhabit 375 during its lifetime.
They say long-term empty homes can be sites of anti-social behaviour and deprive the borough’s 400 homeless or at-risk people of a potential home.
Housing Strategy and Regeneration Service Delivery Manager Ravi Phull and Private Sector Housing Manager Lesley Williams say the strategy acknowledges that there are legitimate reasons why a house may become disused and aims to work with owners, but also includes “robust enforcement” including court action and compulsory purchase orders.
The cabinet will discuss the report on Thursday, November 4. Ms Phull and Ms Williams recommend it adopts the strategy, and approves a £1 million loan to support it.
The report notes that a survey in June showed 1,009 empty properties in the borough. The majority had been empty for less than half a year, but 718 had been unoccupied for more than six months and 214 had not had residents for two years or more.
“The numbers of empties in Telford and Wrekin are lower than those of neighbouring authorities,” Ms Phull and Ms Williams write.
“However, our target is a challenging one in comparison to a number of local authorities in the West Midlands who have chosen not to set a target at all.
“Our priority will initially be focussed on addressing the 214 long-term empty properties that have been empty for two years or more.
“These are often the most problematic, not only representing the waste of a home but potentially becoming a focus for anti-social behaviour or simply falling into disrepair.
“There are a number of reasons why properties become empty including inheritance tax issues, lack of finance to carry out essential repairs, problems achieving a sale or let, or the owner not being local or being in residential care.
“In other cases, owners are simply unwilling to bring properties back into use.
“The council’s Housing Options service provides help and advice to more than 3,000 people each year, working with more than 400 presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness, demonstrating the importance of maximising every opportunity to provide a new home.
“Alongside providing a range of support and assistance to owners to refurbish, let or dispose of properties, through Telford and Wrekin Homes – part of Nuplace, the council’s wholly-owned housing company – the council may acquire or take on the management of appropriate properties for rent to meet local housing need.
“While we want to work with property owners wherever possible, the strategy also sets out a clear and robust enforcement regime which will commence from the moment a property is reported as being empty and becoming an environmental issue.”