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Turning Empty Properties Into Affordable Homes

Cabinet has agreed a three-year plan to build upon its successful approaches to date in tackling to reduce the number of empty properties in the County Borough. 

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is continuing its work in partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords in order to bring vacant homes across the County Borough back onto the housing market.

Cabinet has agreed to implement its Empty Homes Strategy to the increase further, the pace of progress, to tackle the issue of vacant properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf and address the impact they can have upon communities. 

Councillor Robert Bevan, Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Housing, said: "Housing continues to be a priority for the Council as we work in close partnership with local housing providers and private sector landlords to tackle issues such as empty properties and to increase the supply of affordable housing. 

“The Council’s Empty Property Strategy for 2018-21 reinforces the work we have already done and sets out how we are going to continue to deliver improvements to our housing stock in Rhondda Cynon Taf. 

"Many people live near an empty property, some of which have been neglected for some time. This can result in anything from an overgrown garden encroaching on neighbouring properties, an environmental eyesore, fears of crime and anti-social behaviour, and health and safety impacts on neighbouring properties. 

"Over the years we have delivered advice and, where necessary, enforcement to force the owners of empty homes to take responsibility. This has included us delivering essential work and then recovering the cost from the owner. 

"Apart from the fact empty homes can be a blight we will not tolerate- and will take action against - they are also a waste of valuable housing stock that local people are relying upon and a missed opportunity for economic gain. 

“While it is acknowledged that good progress has already been made in bringing empty homes back into use across our County Borough, back by significant investment over the last few years, the scale of the problem still persists and continues to present problems in many of our communities. 

“As such, a strong strategic approach is now required which will make a difference to both the scale of empty homes that are brought back into use as well as having a more fundamental impact; as we move forward with this plan there may be a need to for more radical and bold action to tackling this issue. 

“This plan seeks to ensure that we continue our solid progress on this matter using all the necessary mechanism available to us as a local authority. 

"We recognise there is more to be done and the Empty Homes Strategy sets out, over the next year, how we will strengthen partnerships with the community and social/private landlords, harness our legal powers and draw in as much funding as we can to continue to deal with this issue." 

The most recent annual assessment of empty homes identified 3,500 properties that have stood empty for at least six months and, most challenging, 684 that have been empty for at least four years. It is these 684 properties that will be focussed on the most in the coming years. 

With an estimate 738 affordable homes predicted to be needed every year in the coming years, it makes sense for the Council and its partners in the housing sector to step up their application of both proactive and preventative tactics, which include: 

  • Information and advice for landlords and owners of empty homes on the loans available to them to enable properties to be renovated.
  • Promotion of grant funding available to property owners and landlords, as well as would-be homebuyers, to renovate an empty property to a high standard.
  • Partnerships with housing associations to purchase vacant homes, renovate them to a professional specification and then sell or let them.
  • Enforcement action against those who refuse to take the steps that are required to be undertaken by law.

Applying a range of these tactics in recent years has seen 600 empty properties in Rhondda Cynon Taf returned to the open market, with over 1,400 interventions delivered by Empty Property Officers working to raise the standard of properties. 

However, it is a frustration that in some communities, as soon as one empty property is dealt with, another becomes vacant and neglected.

Posted on Tuesday 4th December 2018