Barnsley bucks national trend as the number of empty homes falls by 4 per cent

Barnsley Council has revealed ambitious new plans to reduce the number of long term empty properties across the borough. The plans, which will be presented to cabinet on Wednesday 20 February, set out a three-year empty property programme to bring 300 empty homes back into use.

Long term empty properties* are a national problem and have been a priority for Barnsley Council for many years. Empty homes can quickly become a nuisance to neighbouring properties and are a real waste of potential homes. As Barnsley’s population continues to grow, so does the need for more and better houses, so whilst a property is sitting empty it’s a wasted house that could be a much needed family home.

To tackle this, the council have worked hard over the last few years to provide empty home owners with a range of support services including - practical advice and help, ring-fenced grants and financial support, support in letting a property and the potential offer of purchasing the property to be used as council stock.

As a result, the number of long term empty properties across the borough has reduced significantly over the last two years with a 4 per cent reduction - at a time when nationally, the number of empty homes has actually increased by 6 per cent. Latest performance figures reveal that between April 2018 and December 2018, the council has helped bring an impressive 171 empty houses back into use.

Building on this success, the council’s latest plans set out an enhanced programme which will broaden the support available to put empty properties back into use. The 2018-2021 programme has seen recruitment of a dedicated Empty homes officer who will work with new and existing partners to deliver the programme, including:

  • Purchasing empty homes which are repaired and brought back into use as social housing.
  • Ongoing advice and support - tailored to meet the specific needs of each empty home owner’s circumstances. This could range from how to sell the property, advice on refurbishment, probate or how to go about being a landlord.
  • Financial support - helping empty home owners bring their empty property back up to the relevant standard.
  • Greater use of the council’s enforcement powers - to enforce the sale of properties to recover debts and bring properties back into use.

Wherever possible, the council would like to develop positive relationships with empty home owners and work with them to overcome the barriers they may face. However, where there is no realistic way forward and the property fails to meet certain criteria, the council will look to use its statutory enforcement powers – including forced sale of the property.

Cllr Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: “It’s very encouraging news that the number of empty properties across the borough is decreasing - a real indication that the work we’ve been doing to date has been making a difference. It’s also very positive that we’re bucking the national trend – we’re clearly doing something right, and by offering an enhanced programme like this, it’s anticipated that we’ll continue to build momentum and see this trend continue.

“Properties become empty for a whole host of reasons and by offering this programme which is tailored to meet individual circumstances as well as different types of support, we’ll break down the barriers that are currently stopping empty home owners doing what they need to do to return them back into use.”

Full details can be found in the cabinet report.

If you’re an empty home owner and would like to know more about the support available, please visit the website. Alternatively, email: emptyhomes@barnsley.gov.uk, or call: 01226 774047

*a long term empty home is classified as a property that’s remained empty for 6 months or more.

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This media release is linked to Town Spirit, our new way of working better together. We believe, that if everyone in Barnsley does just one thing, we can make our borough a more welcoming place to live, work, invest and visit.

We’re committed to #BuildIt by creating more and better homes. To help us achieve this, we need people to #OwnIt by working with us to return empty properties back into homes, providing good quality housing to tenants and reporting empty homes.

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