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More than 10,000 homes lie empty in Staffordshire

By Marion Brennan | Staffordshire | News | Published:

More than 10,000 homes are lying empty across Staffordshire, shock new figures reveal.

The number of vacant properties in the county has shot up in the last 12 months to 10,123 compared to 9,905 in 2016.

In Cannock Chase, which has seen one of the biggest spikes, the number of empty homes has risen in just two years by almost 10 per cent – from 996 in 2015, to 1,067 in 2016 and 1,090 last year. There were 1,915 vacant residences in Stafford, 1,042 in South Staffordshire and 1,059 in the Lichfield district.

Cannock Chase housing leader Frank Allen called the figures ‘unacceptable’.

Last year it was revealed more than £1 billion worth of homes were standing empty in the Black Country and Staffordshire – including £67m in Cannock Chase.

Across the country more than 200,000 homes – with a total value of £43bn – were empty for at least six months during 2016, despite a shortage of properties to rent and buy. The latest figures are revealed in a report by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Sign of the times

Councillor Allen said: “This is not council housing stock, as ours is among the best maintained in the country.

“The problem is private housing and the fact so many of these properties are lying empty is perhaps a sign of the times.

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“Much of the privately-owned stock is derelict and needs a lot of money spending on it, and people just don’t have the cash these days.”

Housing leader Frank Allen

He said the council ran a scheme offering loans at reasonable rates to home owners who needed to bring their properties up to regulatory standards – but only a handful of people had taken advantage of it.

A spokesman from Stafford Borough Council said: “We work with owners to bring properties back in to use as there are many reasons why a home may be empty.

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“We charge full council tax on any property empty for more than six months – and then add an additional 50 per cent charge on those empty for two years.

“It is not acceptable that we have lots of empty homes, it is not good for the area or the economy, so we are recruiting very shortly for additional help dedicated at bringing empty properties back in to use.”

Mike Walker, Cannock Chase District Council Environmental Protection Manager, who looks after private sector housing, said: “The council promotes an Empty Homes Loan Scheme to assist the owners of empty properties in the private sectorseeking to bring them back into beneficial use.”

Councillor Robert McCardle, cabinet member for planning and business enterprise at South Staffordshire Council, said, “We’ve just finalised our Housing and Homelessness strategy for the period 2018-2022, and this will progress to Full Council at the end of March. Within the strategy, one of our objectives is to make best use of the district’s existing housing stock to meet housing need, and one way in which we aim to do that is by bringing empty residential properties back into use.

“We plan to undertake a comprehensive review of the district’s empty properties, and carry out an options appraisal of how best to deal with such homes. This will guide our approach to dealing with empty homes going forward, whether it’s through supporting property owners and bringing these empty homes back into use, or potentially using the Council’s legal powers where appropriate and agreed by Members.”

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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