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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting - 21st September 2011

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety

 

Consultation on Proposed Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To obtain approval to consult on the proposed Empty Homes Strategy 2012-2017.

Recommendations

1.             THAT consultation is carried out on the draft Empty Homes Strategy 2012-2017.

2.             THAT the report is referred to the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To obtain feedback from council stakeholders, interested bodies and the public on the draft Empty Homes Strategy 2012-17.

2.             For information.

Background

2.             A draft of the proposed Empty Homes Strategy for consultation is set out at Appendix 1. This will be the Council's first Empty Homes Strategy.

3.             The process of dealing with empty homes was reviewed prior to the development of the Local Housing Strategy (2007-12) in 2006 (C3376); in conclusion, the approach was deemed insufficient for the following reasons: the service was reactive not proactive, the service provided was in response to complaints received, and there was no specific budget allocated for dealing with empty homes.

4.             It was concluded that a review of the approach to empty homes was needed and that a more effective and strategic approach should be developed, to include; the development of a Empty Homes Strategy, new procedural guidance on dealing with empty homes and guidance on the use and application of Empty Dwelling Management Orders.

5.             The Councils performance in relation to empty homes is monitored via the national performance indicators; PSR/004 Vacant Dwellings Returned to Occupation. The council performance is shown in the table below:

 

 

06/07

07/08

08/09

09/10

10/11

A. The percentage of private sector dwellings that had been vacant for more than 6 months at 1 April that were returned to occupation during the year through direct action by the local authority

0.43%

0.37%

2.05%

0.38%

0.67%

B. The number of private sector dwellings that had been vacant for more than 6 months at 1 April which were returned to occupation during the year through direct action by the local authority

3

3

15

3

5

C. The total number of private sector dwellings that had been vacant for more than 6 months at 1 April

697

816

732

790

749

 

6.             In addition to the performance indicator, the Council has an agreed ‘outcome agreement’ with the Welsh Government. Under the councils strategic aim of ‘communities are vibrant and safe, with access to good housing and sustainable transport’ there is an objective to improve the quality of the existing housing stock. The specific actions are to: Publish the multi-agency Empty Homes Strategy and bring properties back into residential use with Registered Social Landlords by March 2012.

7.             Within this outcome agreement, targets have been set to bring 1% of empty properties back into use in 11/12 and to bring 2% back into use in 12/13.

8.             Improvement in the Council's performance, in returning empty properties to use, will require a joined-up approach between a number of departments and a clear approach to tackling empty homes and their owners.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.             The proposed strategy (Appendix 1) sets out the councils plans to bring empty homes back into use over the next five years. It outlines a coordinated, proactive approach to tackling empty homes in partnership with relevant council departments and stakeholders.

10.        Empty homes represent a wasted resource and a lost opportunity. The Vale of Glamorgan has a significant need for additional market housing (i.e. properties at market value or for rent at market level rents) and affordable housing; the councils Local Housing Market Assessment Update 2010 calculates a need for an additional 915 affordable homes each year over the next five years, and there are 1022 empty homes across the county that could be brought back into use.

11.        Empty homes pose problems for the council, the owner, neighbours, the emergency services and the environment. They are often a blemish on an area and can be subject to vandalism and unsightly graffiti. The council receives service requests and complaints about these properties and has to deal with pests, dilapidation, damage to neighbouring properties and hazards to the public.

12.        The aims of the draft Empty Homes Strategy are to: monitor empty homes, provide advice, assistance, and guidance to landlords and property owners; reduce the negative effect of empty homes on our communities; reduce the number of empty homes, return empty homes to use and promote the empty homes initiative.

13.        Through this strategy the council will target problematic empty homes that are: inactive in the housing market, unlikely to return to use without intervention from the council and are he subject of valid complaints from the public, partners and councillors.

14.        The strategy will not cover short term empty properties, such as: transitional vacancies, due to the property being advertised for sale or rent, properties undergoing renovated prior to sale or rent, infrequently used properties such as holiday or second homes or student accommodation.

15.        The strategy proposes a range of services to assist landlords and property owners bring empty properties back into use, including: advice and assistance, the services of a social lettings agent, Landlord Accreditation Wales, property guardian schemes, financial assistance and incentives.

16.        The Council has extensive legislative powers to intervene where they consider a property is unsafe or in an unacceptable condition. These powers include: enforcement activity, for example; serving Improvement or Prohibition Notices on owners; Demolition Orders, Management Orders, slum clearance, Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) and Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO).

17.        Enforcement in relation to empty properties falls within the service objectives of the Public Protection Service. Empty homes are primarily dealt with by the Council's Environmental Health (Housing) Enforcement Team in partnership with the housing department.

18.        The proposed strategy has been developed in partnership by the Council's Public Sector Housing, Public Protection, Legal, Council Tax, Planning and Development Control departments and the Council's partner Registered Social Landlords.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

19.        There are no additional resource implications for the consultation of the attached draft strategy.

20.        There are options for the resourcing of the approach to tackling empty homes included in the strategy.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.        The legal implications have been referred to in the body of the report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from consultation on the draft strategy.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from the proposed consultation. Invitations to comment on the draft strategy will be sent to all known stakeholder and interest groups in the Vale of Glamorgan to provide an opportunity for comments.

24.        A full Equality Impact Assessment has been completed on the Strategy.

Corporate/Service Objectives

25.        This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service objectives of the council: Community Well Being - to make the Vale a safe and healthy place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full.

Policy Framework and Budget

26.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and Budget and is a matter for executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

27.        This will include;

· Presentation to Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny meeting

· Letters inviting all key stakeholders to comment on the draft strategy

· Presentation to key partnership and stakeholder meeting

· Information placed on the web site and feedback invited

· Press releases to advice of draft strategy on website

 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

28.        Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

Appendix 1 - Draft Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 17

 

Contact Officer

Jenny Prince, Housing Strategy Officer

 

Officers Consulted

Sian Davies, Director, Finance, ICT and Property

Alun Billinghurst, Head of Public Protection, Public Protection

Tony Jaques, Head of Housing, Public Sector Housing

Mike Walsh, Lawyer, Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jenny Prince, Housing Strategy Officer

 

 

 

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