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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 12TH MAY, 2014

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 2ND APRIL, 2014

 

 

1000              UPDATE ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EMPTY HOMES STRATEGY 2012-2013 (DDS) –

 

The Committee was updated on the progress made in respect of the implementation of the Empty Home Strategy as approved by Cabinet in April 2012. Attached at Appendix 2 of the report was The Empty Homes Action Plan which detailed progress against each action.

 

Members were informed that the aim of the Empty Homes Strategy was to monitor empty homes, provide advice, assistance and guidance to empty property owners, to reduce the negative effect of empty homes on communities, to reduce the number of empty homes, return empty homes back to use and to promote the empty homes initiative.

 

Through the Strategy, the Council would target problematic empty homes that were inactive in the housing market, that were unlikely to return to use without intervention from the Council and those that were likely to be the subject of valid complaints from the public, partners and Councillors. 

 

The Strategy would be achieved through a co-ordinated, proactive approach with the relevant Council departments and stakeholders working in partnership to utilise a range of services to assist property owners to bring empty properties back into use. 

 

The empty property database was being continually updated as new information became available.  Long term empty properties details as of 1st September 2013, provided by Council Tax, had been incorporated into the database.  All properties identified as occupied had been closed on the database.  Procedures to ensure the ongoing development and maintenance of the database were in place and being implemented.

 

All long term empty properties as of 1st September 2013 were in the process of being risk assessed, with 77% of newly identified properties completed.  It was anticipated that the remaining assessments would be completed by the end of February 2014.

Between April and December 2013 a total of 54 empty properties had been returned to use.

 

The inter-departmental Empty Homes Working Group had decided to increase the number of empty homes being targeting for ongoing action / enforcement action.  In view of this the top 20 were prioritised for action.

 

Of the 20 properties prioritised, 2 were now occupied; 2 have been sold and the new owners were engaging; 1 would shortly be renovated and leased by United Welsh; 1 would be subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order; 4 were under renovation; 7 were receiving ongoing persuasion; 3 were awaiting enforcement action.

 

During July 2013, the Welsh Government confirmed additional funding for the Houses into Homes Scheme which enabled the Cardiff and Vale region to draw down £1.4m towards these loans.  Work to promote and support the scheme was ongoing which was to ensure that the region and residents would benefit.

 

A Committee Member sought an update regarding progress made on the Victorian Villas within Penarth.  In response the Head of Public Protection advised that this will need to be looked into and that an update would be provided to the Committee. 

 

In response to a query from a Member on how much enforcement action was taken by the Council, the Committee was advised that depending on the risk assessment the full range of enforcement powers could be used from the service of Improvement Notices to enforcement of Compulsory Purchase Orders. The Authority, where applicable, could also use planning enforcement legislation to improve properties.

 

Following a query regarding the authorities working with Empty Homes Charities, the Committee was advised that this was undertaken indirectly by sharing of good practice through the officer technical group consisting of other local authorities that collaborated with charities.

 

A Committee Member queried the level of funding provided by the Welsh Government and whether it would be possible for the Welsh Government to directly fund the post of a dedicated Empty Homes Officer, as in the case of Scotland where such positions were fully funded by the Scottish Government. The Head of Public Protection indicated that as funding only covered capital costs associated with the initiative and given the funding of staff fell under revenue costs, clearly this was outside the scope of the funding criteria. However, the Head of Housing and Building Services saw no reason why the suggestion could not be raised with the relevant Welsh Government Minister especially as the amount of housing supply was a key component to this initiative. The Committee were happy to recommend to Cabinet for a letter to be written to the Assembly Member with ministerial responsibilities for housing and regeneration to consider the Vale’s request. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the report on progress made in implementing the Empty Homes Strategy Action Plan be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Cabinet be requested to write to the relevant Welsh Government Minister requesting that the funding of the revenue costs of dedicated Empty Homes Officer posts across Wales be funded by the Welsh Government.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To monitor progress made in relation to the Empty Homes Strategy.

 

(2)       To consider all appropriate funding arrangements in order to reduce the level of empty homes within the Vale of Glamorgan and pan Wales.

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 2nd April, 2014