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Stafford Council pledge £210k towards revamping empty homes to tackle housing shortage

By Kerry Ashdown | Stafford | Property | Published:

More than £200,000 is to be spent by Stafford Borough Council on bringing 200 empty homes back into use over the next four years.

Stafford Borough Council

Last year the authority recruited an empty homes officer to pick up the work that stopped when the previous officer left in 2015.

And now an Empty Homes Strategy has been produced to continue the work to bring properties back into use across the borough.

Last week the council’s cabinet approved the draft strategy and the release of £210,000 funding set aside to tackle empty homes.

The money will be released in phases across four financial years.

A cabinet report said that the officer currently had an active case load of 30 properties, but funding was needed for the work to carry on.

The strategy proposes bringing 50 empty homes back into use each year.

The funds will be used to get the homes fit for purpose – ranging from support and advice to providing loans for improvement work.

Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for communities, said: “This council has been proactive in the past in bringing empty homes back into use.

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"Over a number of years we have brought 50 a year back in and the council supported proposals to bring back an empty homes officer so we could bring homes back into use.

“These are homes which in many neighbourhoods are seen as blighting the neighbourhood because they are left to fall to rack and ruin. They can be the source of vandalism and antisocial behaviour or they can become unsafe over time.

“There is a real value in bringing them back into use for our communities. Sometimes owners of homes need support in being able to face how to sell a home or bring it back into use, or alternatively resolve family issues.

“This officer is very important in terms of supporting our communities and ensuring we are not building houses without using the stock we have got to best value

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“For each home we bring back into use there is a New Homes Bonus (grant paid by Central Government. Assuming that New Homes Bonus comes through and is maintained over the period of this plan this spend will be cost-neutral.”

Leader Patrick Farrington said: “I think sometimes the general public see the idea of an empty home as somebody’s fault, so it’s important to recognise that on occasions there are examples where a house can be empty bit for reasons which are quite complex. For example it might be that someone still has home ownership but through ill health resides in a residential home, so technically that is deemed to be an empty home, but not through the fault of any individual.

“Another example of that could be someone has passed away and so the reason the property is empty is the personal representatives of the diseased have not yet dealt with the obtaining of Grant of Representation. Some houses are empty but the churn of houses do take time to resolve on some occasions through nobody’s particular fault.”

Councillor Mike Smith, Cabinet Member for Resources, added: “I’m very pleased to hear Councillor Pert expects it to be cost neutral.”

Kerry Ashdown

By Kerry Ashdown
@KerryAshdownLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Staffordshire.

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