Nearly 1,000 empty homes in Ashfield, despite housing crisis

Nearly 1,000 properties are sitting empty in Ashfield each year, while households in the area continue to be faced with homelessness, figures show.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 4:26 pm

Campaigners say abandoned dwellings should be repurposed to tackle England's housing crisis, after councils across the country recorded hundreds of thousands of empty homes.

Figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities show there were at least 938 empty properties in Ashfield at the most recent count in October – down 3 per cent from 968 last year.

Of those, 417 had been gathering dust for six months or more, and at least 127 had been abandoned for more than two years.

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The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

The figures, which cover properties subject to council tax, also show 219 dwellings in the area were listed as second homes last month.

Different DLUHC figures show in 2020-21, 348 households in Ashfield were entitled to council support after becoming homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The Local Government Association has called on the Government to give local authorities greater powers to acquire empty homes.

Coun Tom Hollis, Ashfield Council cabinet member for housing, said “The council actively seeks out and engages with the owners of vacant properties, supporting them to bring their properties back in to use as quickly as possible. As a council, we have worked hard to incentivise home owners to bring properties back into use.

Coun Tom Hollis, Ashfield Council cabinet member for housing.

“When an owner fails to engage the council, we have and continue to use the powers available to force them to act. The reality is that this process can be long and time consuming and Government rules limit how quickly properties are brought back into use.

“As a council, we would welcome additional powers from Government to deal with this and other housing issues related to homelessness. Of course, these things cost money and the fact is that the Government have axed over £50 million from Ashfield Council alone since 2010. Any new powers must come with the appropriate resources to enforce them.”

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Owners of properties which have laid empty for two years or more can be charged an extra 100 per cent council tax on top of their bill – rising to as much as 300 per cent if the home has been empty for a decade or longer.

Nationally, about 72,000 dwellings were subject to a council tax premium in October, about a fifth of which had been abandoned for between five and 10 years and 10 per cent for more than a decade.

In 2020-21, councils across the country identified more than 268,000 households as homeless or at risk of homelessness.

A Government spokesman said more than 243,000 new homes were delivered last year, with £12 billion being invested in affordable housing over five years.

He said the number of empty homes had fallen by 30,000 since 2010, adding: “We have taken significant action to prevent empty homes.

"This includes giving councils stronger powers to increase council tax on empty homes and take over their management, and introducing higher rates of stamp duty and tightening tax rules for second homes."

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