This is an update on my post last week on Shropshire Council’s appalling record on reducing the number of empty homes into use. The stark statistic is that we are getting an extra eleven long term empty homes every month across Shropshire. That’s appalling when people are crying out for decent homes to live in. It is disgraceful that we are building new housing on unpopular sites when there are now 1,615 long term empty homes across Shropshire.
Across the rest of England, the number of empty homes is decreasing. Shropshire is one of the few local authorities bucking the trend by allowing homes to remain empty at a time of growing housing need.
Last Thursday, Lib Dem leader Councillor Roger Evans asked a series of questions at the Enterprise and Growth Scrutiny Committee.
The answers show that the council has cut back on empty homes staff. The council formerly had two staff working hard on bringing empty homes back into use. Now it has one part-time staff member. One consequence of this is that only £325,000 of an empty homes budget of £521,000 in 2015/16 was spent last year – an underspend of 38%.
A long term empty home is a property that has been empty for six months or more. On 5 October 2015, there were 1,526 long term empty homes in the area covered by Shropshire unitary authority. By 1 June 2016, there were 1,615 long term empty homes. That’s an increase of 89 properties in a little under eight months.
The number of long term empty homes is currently growing by around 11 properties a month, 134 properties a year. That’s a decent size housing estate. Every year.
We can’t go on like this. We can’t fail people who are desperate for decent homes.
Shropshire Council has more than £100 million in its capital reserves. Empty homes expenditure can come from the capital budget. It can also come from the revenue budget.
This year, the council will receive more than £9 million from the government under the New Homes Bonus Scheme for building new homes – including bringing empty homes back into use.
In July, the council’s cabinet will decide how to use the New Homes Bonus funding. The number one priority has to be to use this homes-related money to reduce the growing number of empty homes in the county.