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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 13 February 2013

 

Report of the Director of Development Services

 

Update on the Implementation of the Empty Property Strategy

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform members on the progress made over the last 6 months implementing the Empty Property Strategy.

Recommendations

1.             THAT the Committee notes the progress made on implementing the Empty Homes Strategy over the last 6 months.

2.             THAT the report be presented to Cabinet.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To inform members on the progress made implementing the Empty Property Strategy over the last 6 months.

2.             To allow Cabinet to consider the issues arising.

Background

2.             On the 18th April 2012, Cabinet agreed the Council's Empty Property Strategy (Min No. C1696), with a recommendation that the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee monitor the Council's performance against the Action Plan.

3.             The aims of the 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
  • promote the empty homes initiative

4.             Through the 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 the subject of valid complaints from the public, partners and Councillors.

5.             The strategy states this will be achieved through a co-ordinated, proactive approach with relevant Council departments and stakeholders working in partnership to utilise a range of services to assist property owners bring empty properties back into use. The Strategy also includes an Action Plan detailing how the Strategy will be implemented to address empty properties in the Vale.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             The Empty Property Action Plan is attached in Appendix 1.  The Action Plan includes detail of progress against each action to the end of quarter 3 of 2012-13.  Following the adoption of the Strategy, a temporary post was filled in November 2012, enabling an officer to work full time on implementing the Strategy. Significant progress has been made since this post has been filled on the basic implementation of the strategy and the Welsh Government's Houses into Homes Loan Scheme. All known empty properties have been inputted into a specific database to enable better information management on these known empty properties.  In total 697 property records have been generated.

7.             In addition, an empty property questionnaire was sent out to owners of all known empty properties to establish why properties are left empty and what assistance owners may want to help them return the properties back into use.  The completed questionnaires are still being received; therefore, analysis of the data has been delayed to quarter 4 to enable as much information as possible to be captured.

8.             Risk assessments of known empty properties have begun during December 2012.  To date 15% of the properties have been assessed and scored.  It is anticipated that this process will take a further 3-4 months to complete, but it will provide clear information on empty properties that the Council should target with advice and enforcement action where appropriate.

9.             Considerable work has been undertaken on implementing the Welsh Government's Houses into Homes Loan Scheme.  During the Summer, the Council agreed to Welsh Government grant conditions for the Houses into Homes Scheme and in November the Council entered into a Collaborative Agreement with Cardiff Council to work jointly to promote the loan scheme.

10.        To mid January 2013, 52 enquiries had been received from owners interested in the loan scheme and application packs have been sent to all.  The Empty Property Officer is currently contacting each of these owners to offer support and advice on the loan scheme and application process, and provide advice on the wider options available to the owners.  From this contact, it is anticipated at least 6 owners will complete and return application packs that will enable the Council to draw down Welsh Government funding and process the loan approvals.

11.        The closing date to draw down Welsh Government funding for the Houses into Homes Loan Scheme is the end of March 2013.  To make the most of this opportunity, resources have been concentrated on progressing this scheme in addition to building the basic knowledge database.  As a result, some of the actions within the action plan have been delayed and the finish date amended.  Where this has occurred, the original finish date is noted within the comments box.

12.        To support the additional resource the Council has put in place to support the implementation of the Empty Property Strategy and Welsh Government Homes into Homes loan Scheme, a Community Innovation Grant bid for revenue funding was submitted.  If successful, this resource would have targeted empty properties in the Castleland Renewal Area linking the work of the Empty Property Strategy and the regeneration of properties in the Renewal Area. Unfortunately, this bid was not successful.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.        Public Protection Department has identified efficiency savings that is funding a temporary post to enable an Empty Property officer to work on implementing the strategy on a full time basis.  This funding is available until the end of March 2014.

14.        The ability to draw down on Welsh Government Houses into Homes loan scheme funding is only available until the end of March 2013.  If applications are not received and Welsh Government grant claim process is not completed by the March deadline, this funding will no longer be accessible.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.        Increasing the supply of homes from within existing stock will help reduce the need for building new stock.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.        There are no specific legal implications from the content of this particular report.  Legal implications of implementing the empty property strategy where detailed as part of the Cabinet report recommending the strategy was adopted.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.        There are only positive crime and disorder implications arising from implementing this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.  A full Equality Impact Assessment has been completed on the Strategy when it was recommended for adoption.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.        Community Strategy 2011-21

Priority Outcome 7: The underlying causes of deprivation are tackled and the regeneration of the Vale continues, opportunities for individuals and businesses are developed and the quality of the built and natural environment is protected and enhanced.

 

Priority Outcome 8: The Vale maximises the potential of its position within the region working with its neighbours for the benefit of local people and businesses, attracting visitors, residents and investment.

 

Aim: Sustaining vibrant communities and breaking the cycle of deprivation.

 

Policy Framework and Budget

20.        This report is for information only.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.        No consultation has been undertaken as this report is for information only.

Background Papers

The Council's Empty Property Strategy

 

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer, 01446 709833

 

Officers Consulted

Legal Services

Finance Services

Housing Strategy Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services.

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