Empty homes

New scheme to tackle 1,000 empty homes will transform Preston

The number of empty homes in the north-west has almost halved since 2008, from 73,888 to around 40,000, but there’s still a long way to go and Preston is one city that is taking action against the problem.

Preston Council has set aside an initial £400,000 to go towards refurbishing around 990 long-term unoccupied properties in and around Preston, money which has been amassed through contributions from developers who hope to set up new sites in the city.

Councillors have already approved an empty property levy on all homes in Preston that have been empty and unfurnished for two or more years, charging an additional 50% premium on top of the full council tax after two years of vacancy, and the new funding will further tackle the issue of empty homes.

Councillor Peter Moss, cabinet member for planning and regulation, said: “The city council is currently seeking a development partner or partners to help it reduce the number of long-term empty homes in the borough and increase the number of affordable homes available to rent. The council is initially looking to use around £400,000 of funding received through contributions from developments for the delivery of off-site affordable housing to deliver this objective through the refurbishment of the properties.”

Transforming empty homes can create affordable housing

A spokesman for housing association Community Gateway Association (CGA) said: “We are aware that long-standing empty properties can attract anti-social behaviour, therefore by letting previously empty homes we help to regenerate and improve our estates.

“A number of our Purchase and Repair properties were previously empty and have now all been let at affordable rent, helping to meet the housing need in Preston.

“The work involved in refurbishing long-standing empty homes also creates employment opportunities for those that attend Preston Vocational Centre, our subsidiary organisation specialising in vocational construction courses.”

Across the UK, there are around 200,000 properties that have stood empty for two years or more, down from 300,000 in 2010. Since 2013, councils have been able to charge a 50% premium on council tax bills for such properties, but through the latest legislation introduced today – the Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill – councils will now be able to charge double the rate of council tax on homes that have stood empty for 24 months.

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