The council is one of the foremost councils across England in tackling this issue which faces all local authorities.
Currently there are 5,710 empty homes, which is 3.8 per cent of all East Riding dwellings. Of these, 1,250 are classed as being long term empty, meaning they have been empty for six months or more. This is a significant decrease compared with 2,000 long term empty properties in October 2011.
Councillor Symon Fraser, portfolio holder for environment, housing and planning, said: “Three years ago a plan of action was put in place to tackle the unacceptable number of properties left empty and causing a nuisance. These were properties that would make some family a good home.
“Bringing long term empty properties back into use can be a lengthy process, particularly if legal action is needed. But over the last couple of years we have been seeing a huge improvement as the number has been falling.
He said: “There are an endless number of reasons why properties should not be left empty and rotting: they attract crime such as vandalism, arson, fly tipping and vermin. Their deteriorating state can also damage adjoining properties.
“It also uses council taxpayers’ money to make these properties secure when the owner is not known.”
An example of the cost to the council is that of a house in Lansdowne Road, Bridlington which was empty for 14 years. The total cost to the council over a 12 month period was £8,000. This does not reflect the reduced value of neighbouring properties or police costs for dealing with anti social behaviour or fire service costs in dealing with incidents.
Nigel Leighton, director of environment and neighbourhood services, said; “We start every process by trying to work in partnership with owners of empty properties. We have found that in many cases encouragement and persuasion to undertake repairs has worked very well.
“Initially, a letter is sent or a visit is made to the owner and this generally has the desired effect in that the property is brought into use.
“Where things become more difficult, for example when persuasion and negotiation fail and an owner doesn’t carry out remedial work then there are several paths we can take, but giving up isn’t one of them.”
Voluntary acquisition is when the council and the owner of an empty property reach an agreement for the council to buy it at an agreed price. In the past three years the council has voluntary acquired six properties and put them back in use. (Brandesburton 1, Bridlington 1, Hessle 1, Hornsea 2 and Willerby 1)
Empty dwelling management orders (EDMO) are an interim measure which allows the council to take possession of a property and to get it occupied. While this is an action open to councils, it is not one that this council has yet used.
Compulsory purchase orders are carried out only with approval from the Secretary of State responsible for communities and local government. This is a lengthy process taking up to a year. The council has compulsory purchased four properties in the last three years (Beverley 1, Bridlington 1, Hessle 1 and Goole 1).
Mr Leighton said: “The reasons why properties are left empty and to deteriorate are as varied as the properties themselves. They include homes left empty after the death of the occupant or a property which has been willed to someone who is reluctant to accept it.
“There are also situations where the owner has allowed the house to become run down and can no longer afford to bring it back into order. Other properties are just abandoned or have been bought as an investment and just left empty.”
In 2012 the council published its Empty Homes Strategy, outlining its plans to reduce the number of empty properties. This includes imposing a premium 150 per cent of the council tax on a property which has been empty for two years and more.
The council has also been awarded over £400,000 of grant funding as part of the Government’s Empty Homes Programme to bring 30 empty properties back into use. The council has also set aside capital funding from its own budgets to pay to acquire properties, the money being recovered when the properties are sold.Hu17.net - It's all about Beverley