To provide an update on progressing long term empty homes. (Report of the Executive Director – Place enclosed)
Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director Place which updated the Panel on the current position of Empty Homes and the work being undertaken to increase performance.
The Housing Options Manager stated that this was the latest 6-monthly update.
Areas to note were changes to council tax – an increase of 50% for owners of long term empty homes was due to be implemented
Although performance had gone slightly backwards in that there were more empty homes than the same period in the previous year, the banding had remained the same meaning that properties were not remaining empty for any longer than they were beforehand.
The Housing Options Manager was looking for guidance on what direction the policy on empty homes should take in the future. The Vice-Chairman stated that he felt there was an issue related to officers identifying potential long term empty properties. He stated that in the interest of promoting this there could be the potential of a guidance group on this in the new administration.
Members queried the reasons why properties had been empty for so long. The Housing Options Manager stated that there were multiple reasons why this could be the case, such as the resolving of ‘no-will’ deaths or simply difficulty selling a property.
Members asked whether officers reached out to Parish Councils for support with reporting Long Term Empty Homes. The Housing Options Manager stated that lists were gathered from Council Tax data.
Members asked if the increased Council Tax bands applied to empty homes were discretionary if there were circumstantial reasons why payment would be difficult. The Housing Options Manager stated that it wasn’t the intention to put anyone into financial hardship, but that ultimately, that element of the policy was managed by Council Tax arrangements. He agreed that he would clarify whether there would be any alternative arrangements available. Members further stated that they felt that the policy should take into account the difficulties and need for flexibility within levying such tax increases.
The Chairman stated that he agreed and wanted officers come back to the Panel after clarifying that tax increases could be discretionary to allow for circumstance.
1) That the Panel noted the contents of the report; and
2) That the Panel receive a further update in 6 months time.