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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 18TH JULY, 2012

 

REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 18TH APRIL, 2012

 

 

C1696                       EMPTY HOMES STRATEGY 2012 - 2017 (HCS) (SCRUTINY - HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION) -

 

Cabinet were requested to adopt the Empty Homes Strategy 2012-2017. 

 

The proposed Strategy (attached at Appendix A to the report) set out the Council’s plans to bring empty homes back into use over the next five years.  It outlined a co-ordinated, proactive approach to tackling empty homes in partnership with relevant Council departments and stakeholders. 

 

The aims of the proposed Empty Homes Strategy were 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

·         promote the empty homes initiative.

 

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

 

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

 

The Strategy proposed 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.

 

The Council had extensive legislative powers to intervene where it considered a property was unsafe or in an unacceptable condition.  These powers included:  enforcement activity such as serving Improvement, Abatement of Nuisance or Prohibition Notices on owners; Demolition Orders, Management Orders, slum clearance, Compulsory Purchase Orders and Empty Dwelling Management Orders under the Housing Act 2004. 

 

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

 

In April 2012, the Welsh Government was introducing the “Houses to Homes” initiative.  This provided £5m. between the local authorities to bring empty properties back into use.  This national loan scheme would be delivered through a local authority and the Welsh Government had invited interest. 

 

To qualify for the “Houses to Homes” funding, local authorities had to work collaboratively utilising the six regions model.  Of the £5m. funding available across Wales, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan Councils had been allocated approximately £750,000.  The Vale’s share was £212,000 and this apportionment had been based on the level of stock in each local authority area.  The funding was a one-off amount and there would be a yet to be agreed cut off date for it to be spent.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council was working collaboratively in order to appropriately deliver the loan scheme and work was underway to ensure the scheme was available to empty property owners in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

The Strategy had 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. 

 

Cabinet, in September 2011, granted authority to consult on the Strategy.  The consultation lasted six weeks and ended on 16th December 2011. 

 

Five consultation questionnaires were completed and returned.  These responses agreed with the aims and objectives of the Strategy.  No amendments had been made in response to the consultation questionnaires received. 

 

The Public Protection department had identified efficiency savings from the Grant Agency Service in order to appoint a temporary Empty Property Co-ordinator within Environmental Health for a period of 2 years.  The post would provide support to implement the Strategy and act as the public point of contact for empty properties and develop and manage public information on empty properties in the area.

 

The Council would also seek the support of partner Registered Social Landlords to enable an Environmental Health Officer or equivalent to be employed three days a week to take forward enforcement action that would include Compulsory Purchase Orders.  The Private Sector Housing Enforcement team would lead the implementation of Strategy.

 

This was a matter for Executive decision.

 

RESOLVED -

 

(1)       T H A T the Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017 be accepted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Vale of Glamorgan Council lead the Houses to Homes loan scheme on behalf of the Vale and Cardiff Councils.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection).

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To meet a key objective of the Public Protection and Housing Service Plans.

 

(2)       A lead authority for each region has to be nominated for the Houses to Homes loan scheme and the Vale of Glamorgan Council has the necessary expertise to lead.

 

(3)       To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) monitors the Council’s performance against the Action Plan on a six monthly basis.”

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Cabinet: 18th April, 2012