My friend and colleague Richard Davies quoted below - nothing to add!
Council Helping to Bring Empty Homes Back into Use
Reading Borough Council Press Release
Reading Borough Council is helping to bring unused accommodation back into use through an on-going empty homes programme.
Homes can become empty due to a change in ownership or tenancy, or during a refurbishment. Of the 2,500 unoccupied homes in Reading, around 400 have been empty for 6 months or longer. These figures peaked at 550 in 2008 - the year the Council launched the Empty Homes Strategy, which will be reviewed and refreshed in the next few months.
As part of the review, residents will be urged to report empty homes in their areas. Empty homes blight neighbourhoods, encourage anti-social behaviour and are a waste of accommodation, particularly for a town like Reading where housing is at a premium.
The Council offers personalised support for owners struggling to maintain their unused property and can use enforcement powers on owners who are unwilling to deal with vacant homes.
Since 2008 the Council has helped bring back into use over 75 problematic empty homes. In most cases, the owners have been willing to accept help from the Council in the form of advice on renovation, sale or letting, empty home loans and grants. The Council has only had to resort to using enforcement powers for a hardcore minority of less cooperative owners who would not take responsibility for their property.
Some owners can be stuck with an empty home due to bankruptcy, lack of funds for building works, inheritance problems or legal disputes. There are many empty home owners who could be described as vulnerable or confused and their problems in maintaining their property are often an indicator of wider issues. The Council’s Empty Homes Officer works closely with them and offers tailored support to help them to get their empty home back into use.
Councillor Richard Davies, Lead Member for Housing said:
“There are obvious drawbacks to having empty homes in our town; they are unattractive and can become dangerous; they are a waste of housing stock; and they encourage anti-social behaviour such as fly tipping and vandalism. However, the reasons behind their owners’ neglect can often be very complex.
“The Council’s Empty Homes Officer works hard to ascertain the root of the problem and works one-to-one with the owner on bringing the property back into a habitable state.
“We are asking residents to report empty properties and would urge anyone who owns a disused home to contact the Council for advice and support. We have a target of returning 20 high priority empty homes back into use this year and are keen to see them inhabited again.”
The Council can offer an Empty Home Loan for owners who wish to retain control of the property once works are completed, or an Affordable Home Loan, through which they lease their empty home to a partner Housing Association who take on responsibility for property and tenancy management.
More extreme powers such as Compulsory Purchase orders are used if an owner proves completely unwilling or unable to bring the property back into use through informal methods. The Council intervenes when a dangerous structure needs to be made safe, when an insecure home has to be boarded up or when required improvements need