London empty homes stalled

22nd July, 2013

Last month it was revealed that the initiative to return empty homes to use in London has returned just eight properties to use in the past year. That is despite investment in the scheme totalling just £39,000, just over 1% of London’s £3.6m budget for 2012-2013.

The Local Government Chronicle reports that at the last count there were over 70,000 empty homes in London, with a third of those long-term empties unoccupied for more than six months.
The scheme returned a massive 1,700 homes to use in its first year, so it is puzzling that the output has dropped so sharply in the last twelve months.

One possible explanation is that the first year’s figures are a product of authorities in London updating their council tax records. Until recently, most local authorities did not have accurate council tax records showing which properties are empty and which are occupied.

It has also been suggested that one factor in London’s empty homes initiative apparently stalling is the lack of co-operation and collaboration between London boroughs. ‘No Use Empty’, Kent CC’s empty homes initiative which as returned over 2,700 homes to use since the programme was launched in 2005, is run in partnership with all twelve local authorities in Kent. This enables us to pool resources and knowledge. If city hall is to make a real impact with its initiative it needs all boroughs pulling in the same direction.

There have been calls for local authorities in London to compulsory purchase long-term empty properties in order to bring them back into use. While such orders are a good way for councils to flex their muscles, in reality they are only employed in the most extreme of cases when owners cannot be contacted, or refuses to co-operate with the authority.

Empty homes and the potential for retrofitting them will be addressed in the Retrofit South East and Retrofit London events being held in Dartford and London on 26th November and 6th December 2013 respectively.  For further details visit www.retrofit-roadshow.co.uk

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