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Agenda Item No 7

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection): 9th October 2013

 

Report of the Director of Development Services

 

Update on the Implementation of the Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Members of the progress being made on implementing the Empty Homes Strategy since its approval in April 2012 (as per Cabinets recommendation in Min No. C1696).

Recommendation

1.             That the Committee notes the progress being made to implement the Empty Homes Strategy.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To inform Members on the progress bring made to implement the Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017 since the last update in February 2013.

Background

2.             The Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017 was approved by Cabinet on 18th April 2012 (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 aim of the Empty Homes Strategy is to monitor empty homes; provide advice, assistance and guidance to empty property owners; to reduce the negative effect of empty homes on our communities; to reduce the number of empty homes; return empty homes back to use and to promote the empty homes initiative.

4.             Through the Strategy, the Council will target problematic empty homes that are inactive in the housing market and that are unlikely to return to use without intervention from the Council and which are likely to be 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 includes an action plan detailing how the Strategy will be implemented to address empty homes within The Vale of Glamorgan.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             The update builds on the Scrutiny Committee report dated 13th February 2013 informing the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee of the Council's performance against the Empty Homes Strategy Action Plan.

7.             The Empty Homes Action Plan is attached in Appendix 1. The Action Plan details of progress against each action from quarter 4 of 2012 - 2013 to the end of quarter 1 of 2013 - 2014. This is the text in red.

8.             The empty property database is being continually updated as new information becomes available. Arrangements are in place for the Council Tax service to provide a current list of long term vacant properties to Private Sector Housing twice a year (April and September).  Long term empty properties as of 1st April 2013 are currently being input into the database (approx 300 new properties identified).  Records of properties now identified as being occupied are being closed (estimated to be in the region of 300 properties).

9.             A service level agreement has been drafted between Council Tax and Private Sector Housing to facilitate access to the Council Tax database for the purpose of reviewing data on empty properties.  This agreement has now been approved by Head of Public Protection and Head of Financial Services.   

10.        Empty properties are risk assessed to prioritise resources.  The 15 properties scoring the highest in the risk assessment procedure have been prioritised for further action. These properties will be subject to ongoing actions / enforcement action until such time they become occupied.

11.        A survey of properties empty in 2012 has been completed.  Of the 600 empty homes surveys that were sent out between March and December 2012, a total of 144 completed surveys were returned (response rate of 24%).  The analysis of these surveys has been completed and a report outlining the findings is included in Appendix 2.

12.        A total of 860 empty homes packs were sent to all empty property owners that were known to the department as of the 1st Aril 2013.  As a result of the quality of information received from the 2012 survey, a further empty homes survey was included within the packs.  The survey responses are still being received, but the analysis will take place over the coming months and enhance the information held on the type of empty properties in the Vale and why they are vacant.

13.        There was a delay in launching the web pages due to corporate changes being made to the website.  However the web pages providing information and advice to empty home owners and members of the public has been launched.

14.        Considerable work has been undertaken to develop and promote Welsh Governments Houses into Homes loan scheme.  Information has been disseminated to all empty property owners, lettings and estate agents.  To date 70 enquiries have been received from owners interested in the loan scheme and application packs have been sent.  Of these 70 enquiries 55 applications have been withdrawn and 2 applications have been rejected.  The empty homes officer is currently processing 3 applications, one of which has now been approved and is pending completion with Legal Services.  The empty homes officer is liaising with the owners of the remaining 10 enquiries and it is anticipated that at least 3 of these will proceed with an application.

15.        During July 2013, Welsh Government confirmed additional funding for the Houses into Homes scheme which enables the Cardiff and Vale region to draw down an additional £1.4 million towards these loans.  Work to promote and support the scheme is ongoing to ensure this region and residents benefits from this funding. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.        The empty property officer post implementing the Empty Homes Strategy will be extended until the end of March 2015 and funded through Public Protection's reserves.

17.        Capital funding has been drawn down from Welsh Government's Houses into Homes loan scheme during 2012-13 to support the application in the system.  Additional capital funding for the implementation of the Houses into Homes loan scheme has been made available from Welsh Government that can be drawn down if need is established. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18.        Increasing the supply of homes from within existing stock will assist in addressing housing need and will also reduce the need for building new stock.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        There are no specific legal implications from the content of this particular report.

20.        Legal implications of implementing the Empty Homes Strategy were detailed as part of the Cabinet report recommending the Strategy was adopted.

21.        Legal implications of action on individual properties will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.        There are only positive crime and disorder implications arising from this report, including tackling antisocial behaviour that is often associated with empty properties.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        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

24.        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 environmental 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.

Policy Framework and Budget

25.        This report is for information only.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

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

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.        Housing and Public Protection

Background Papers

The Empty Homes Strategy 2012 - 2017

 

Contact Officer

Georgina Wayman, Environmental Health Officer, 01446 709838

 

Officers Consulted

Legal Services

Finance Services

Housing Strategy Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas - Director of Development Services 

 

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