East Devon District Council

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Policy Empty Homes Strategy

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2. Strategic objectives

Aim 5 of this plan ‘Improve the Use and Safety of Housing’ includes bringing long term empty homes back into use by various informal and formal methods and states that we will be ‘pro-active in bringing empty homes back into use’. 

Under Aim 5 of the Homes and Communities Plan, the council will:

  • implement the Empty Homes Strategy and revise the action plan. 
  • promote new and innovative schemes to help owners of empty homes bring them back into use. 
  • intervene with regulatory powers where standards pose a risk to health and in respect of empty homes that could provide a home.
  • work in close collaboration with the council tax team and also with Parish and Town Councillors to identify empty homes and bring them back into use.

Private rented sector housing is now seen as a major housing resource with more people renting in the private sector over the past 10 years.  Our Private Sector Renewal Plan 2012-2015 specifically addresses issues pertaining to the private sector.

2.1 Key changes to empty homes legislation

The previous coalition government introduced a number of measures designed to facilitate the return of empty properties into occupation.  The present conservative government have not rescinded these incentives.

The key incentives that remain are as follows:

The New Homes Bonus

This was introduced in April 2011 with the aim of boosting the number of new builds and the number of empty properties bought back into use.  For each property bought back into use the government pays the local authority an amount equivalent to the national average of property’s council tax band for the past six years.

These funds are not ring-fenced which gives local authorities greater freedom in how the money should be spent.  However, it should be noted that at the same time the formula grant to local authorities is being significantly reduced and there is a risk that income generated under the New Homes Bonus will not cover the loss in the formula grant, leaving the council with a deficit.

Technical reforms to council tax

Councils are able to charge up to a 50% premium on properties which have been empty for more than two years.  Councils also have more discretion regarding exemptions allowed on empty homes and second homes.  As from 1 April 2013, these empty properties only receive three months exemption after which they are charge at the full rate.  If these properties remain empty for more than two years, the Council will charge the long term empty premium rate of 150% council tax.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO)

These orders, which enable local authorities to obtain possession of the property for up to seven years, were bought in under the Housing Act 2004, but have since been amended.  Local authorities must now supply evidence that there is community support for this action and proof that the property is a nuisance.  In addition, the property must now have been empty for two years rather than six months before the council can apply for an EDMO.