The UK’s housing market is still struggling under a combination of increasing demand for property and a reduced ability to supply from the construction sector.
With so many pressures on both private sector and social housing it is imperative that we make the best use of existing stock. As there are over 250,000 properties in England which remain empty for longer than six months, it is essential that these properties should be brought back into use to help with the increased demand for housing.
Returning empty homes into use is cheaper and faster than building new properties, generates less than one-fifth of the carbon dioxide created in building new homes; removes empty homes as as source of community blight; helps neighbours with problem properties next door to them; provides empty homes owners with an income through letting or selling and, finally, provides a home for a family.
The financial crisis continues to take a very heavy toll on construction of new homes, and despite government estimates that England’s housing stock needs to grow by 232,000 homes per year until 2033 in order to meet the estimated demand this is not being fulfilled.
The lack of available homes is exacerbated by other factors. Firstly, it is anticipated that the available supply of council housing may diminish due to the changes to the ‘Right to Buy’ (RTB) discounts and the number of RTB applications and sales in East Devon District Council have shown a marked increase since 2010, in 2013 – 14 approximately 50 applications were received.
Bringing empty properties back into use, nationally, would supply the equivalent of one year’s worth of newly built homes.
East Devon District Council’s goal is to help provide decent homes so that people can live and work in East Devon. One of the major aims in The Council Plan 2012 – 2016 (pre-refresh in 2014) under ‘Living in this outstanding place’ is ‘.... ensuring that people can live in some of the empty homes in the district’.
In a large district which has both urban and rural areas, identifying empty homes is one of the challenges faced by the council. By making the general public aware of the problems empty homes cause, we hope to encourage people to report empty homes to the council.
This plan sets out how we are working with owners of long term empty properties to return these properties back into use.
With the support and co-operation of the public, the engagement of empty home owners and the resources available, we hope to facilitate and speed up the process of bringing empty homes back into use.