Six-figure sum to tackle almost 2,000 long-term empty homes in district

Empty homes across East Suffolk could be brought back into use.

Empty homes across East Suffolk could be brought back into use. Inset, East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for housing Richard Kerry - Credit: Mike Page/East Suffolk Council

A six-figure sum has been committed to tackle the blight of more than 1,900 long-term empty homes, East Suffolk Council has announced.

The authority’s cabinet on Tuesday night agreed to hire an empty homes officer who will oversee plans to bring the number of empty homes in private ownership in the district down from 280 to 170 over the next three years.

The authority aims to bring back into use 20-30 homes per year through the scheme, which could be through persuasion of property owners, purchase for council stock or even compulsory purchase powers.

Council data indicated that as of March 1 this year there were 187 homes empty between two and five years, 51 empty between five and 10 years, and 42 which had been derelict a decade or longer.

Those empty between six months and two years totalled 1,681, the council reported.

Homes are set to be prioritised by type, location, length of time unoccupied and the housing needs in the area, and will largely focus on the 280 empty two years or more.

East Suffolk Council cabinet member for housing, Richard Kerry

Richard Kerry, cabinet member for housing at East Suffolk Council - Credit: Paul Nixon/East Suffolk Council

Cllr Richard Kerry, East Suffolk Council’s Conservative cabinet member for housing, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource and can cause blight on neighbourhoods, attracting anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping.

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“We recognise the value of bringing an empty home back into the housing stock. The result can be a modernised, more energy efficient home, utilising fewer resources than a new build.

“We also realise that solutions need to be tailored to each case and owner, often requiring time to explore all options.

“As a local authority, we can play a key role in opening up the opportunity for investment and restoration where it may have stalled.

“Costs of all actions and their impact on overall long-term empty homes will be kept under review, and the programme revised and tailored to maximise effectiveness.”

Revenue costs of nearly £282,000 are estimated, which will be funded from reserves of the New Homes Bonus.

House purchases will also be funded through that pot initially, before replenishment from capital receipts from the sale of homes.

Labour group leader Peter Byatt said he hoped the plan would prove effective.

Examples of empty homes becoming part of the Council’s own stock, to provide affordable accommodation and much needed regeneration, include 560 London Road, Lowestoft, converted into a House in Multiple Occupation, and 98 Park Road, Lowestoft, now occupied as a five-bed council house.