Cash incentives to help bring empty properties back into use

Cash incentives to help bring empty properties back into use
Homeowners and prospective landlords across the Deepings and Bourne districts of Lincolnshire are being offered grants of up to £5,000 to help bring empty buildings back into use.

As part of a wider effort to help boost the supply of rental homes on the market to cater for growing demand from tenants, South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) is offering the incentive payments, which are part of the government's £4.8bn Empty Homes Community Grants Programme, to help landlords and building owners re-let properties that they own which have been classed as long-term unoccupied.

"It can be challenging for some owners of homes that have not been maintained over a number of years to bring them back into habitable condition," said Anne Marie Coulthard, SKDC's business manager for environmental health.

"Therefore the Government's Empty Homes Community Grants Programme is a channel to help improve the condition and value of the property and, in some cases, allows landlords to let the property in order to generate an income," she added.

To qualify for funding from the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme, the property must have been vacant for at least six months and owners must agree to charge rent below the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) weekly rates of between £58.38 and £153.02 for a minimum period of three years. Additionally, the property must be brought back into use within 12 months of work starting.

£38bn worth of vacant property in England

Fresh research by the property crowdfunding platform Property Partner estimates that England has more than 203,000 long-term empty homes which have an estimated value of over £38bn.

In London alone, there were 20,915 homes sitting idle for over six months in 2015 - that is almost £12.4bn worth of empty property, despite a chronic housing shortage in the city.

Newham in London has 1,318 empty properties - more than any of the other 32 boroughs in the capital with the total value standing at almost £470m. Meanwhile, Kensington and Chelsea's long term vacant housing stock is valued at £1.7bn.

By contrast, Harrow in the north west of London has just 97 dwellings which have been unoccupied for over six months and unsurprisingly, the smallest borough the City of London has just 44.

Outside of London, Bradford has the worst problem, having seen a rise of 7% in the past decade to a total of 4,154 empty homes with an estimated value of more than £400m worth of property sitting empty.

At the other end of the spectrum, Manchester has seen the number of empty homes fall by more than 84%, from 10,059 long-term vacant dwellings in 2005 to 1,599 ten years later.

West Yorkshire, including Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield, has 12,292 empty properties which is more than any other English metropolitan district.

Dan Gandesha, CEO of property crowdfunding platform Property Partner, said: "These figures reveal a shocking waste of opportunity. Over a decade ago, the law changed giving councils the power to seize empty homes through Compulsory Purchase Orders and rent them back out to tenants, if they lay vacant for more than two years.

"But we still find not enough being done in many parts of the country. This is nothing short of a scandal. To be fair, some towns and cities are getting to grips with the problem of long-term vacant properties. Yet if just half of the current empty homes could be brought to market, it would go a long way towards resolving the housing crisis, particularly in London."

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