Scrutiny review of Empty Properties
A cross party committee that scrutinises the work of Telford & Wrekin Council have undertaken a review of Empty Properties and Private Landlords in the borough.
There are an estimated 400 empty properties, mostly in private ownership, across Telford and Wrekin.
The shortage of housing and the increasing importance of the private rented sector as a part of the housing market has been highlighted nationally. In this climate, empty properties are a wasted housing opportunity and, if left to deteriorate, they can blight a neighbourhood or become a focus for anti-social behaviour.
The Housing, Economy & Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee’s review looked at what the Council is doing to help bring empty properties in Telford and Wrekin back into use. The committee has made 19 recommendations, largely practical suggestions from research about how other authorities are dealing with these issues.
Key recommendations were about raising public awareness about the need to report empty properties as early as possible so action can be taken to try to prevent deterioration.
The committee also recognised that there is only one Empty Property Officer and recommended that the Council must be clear about how properties are prioritised for action so that members of the public understand that the Council has limited powers and cannot do everything at once.
The committee found that overall the Council is moving in the right direction and welcomed:
- The fact that the council had taken a concerted approach.
- The investment in the Empty Property Officer.
- The Council’s approach to supporting owners of empty properties.
- The additional investment in Sutton Hill agreed by Cabinet in September.
Committee chair Chris Turley said: “Our priority was to ensure that everything possible is being done to ensure that empty properties in the borough are being brought back to occupation.
“Not only can empty properties cause problems but if the Council helps to bring an empty property back into use, it can get income from the government’s New Homes Bonus scheme which can be put back into local services.
“As the watchdog of Council policy, we recognise the good work that has been done and make some recommendations for how this might continue, particularly raising awareness of the issue and the importance of reporting empty properties as soon as possible.”
Councillor Charles Smith, cabinet member for Housing Development and Borough Towns, said: “We have noted the committee’s recommendations and we will be taking many of these forward.
“We want to regenerate local neighbourhoods and this includes bringing empty properties back into use, and ensuring that local people have access to suitable housing.”
The committee’s report, which includes its recommendations, is being presented to the Council’s Cabinet on Thursday 15 May.
The Housing, Economy & Infrastructure Scrutiny Committee is made up of cross party elected borough councillors and co-opted town and parish councillors.