Owners of empty homes urged to free up their properties across West Suffolk

The owners of long term empty homes are being asked to work with the council to help meet some of the local demand for housing.

There are more than 650 long term empty properties across West Suffolk – these are properties that have been empty for six months or more, while nearly 200 of these have been empty for at least two years.

West Suffolk councils have published the figures as part of National Empty Homes Week.

It comes just a fortnight after St Edmundsbury Borough Council appealed to landlords to help it to try to accommodate those who are homeless in West Suffolk.

Councillor Sara Mildmay-White, Cabinet Member for Housing for both Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “While I am sure that there are many personal reasons why a property may become empty for a while, it is also frustrating as we know that there is a real need for this housing. We have a housing register of 2,378 people across West Suffolk – some of these are people looking to upsize or downsize or move into an area. But we also need landlords to work with us to provide housing. The Council simply can’t meet this need on its own.

“The owners are also missing out on rent. Our West Suffolk Lettings Partnership offers a guaranteed rental scheme and our landlord liaison officer would welcome the opportunity to discuss the services on offer.

“If it is the costs of repairing the property that is the barrier, then we also offer an Empty Homes Grant of up to £20,000 for essential works where the property has been empty for over a year. That could be ideal for a first time buyer taking on a fixer upper. We can also give the owners of these properties advice or point them in the direction of other services that may be able to help.

“That is the carrot, we also have the stick in the shape of a 150 per cent Council Tax charge on properties that have been empty for two or more years. The Council does have other powers to try to take over management of these properties to bring these homes back into use and although the number of empty homes has slowly been coming down in recent years, we will always keep these as an option where practical.”

For more on the Empty Homes Grant visit https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/empty_houses/emptyhomesgrant.cfm or you can call 01638 719733 or 01284 757053 or email customer.services@westsuffolk.gov.uk

For more on the West Suffolk Lettings Partnership guaranteed rent scheme, visit https://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/privatehousing/wslp.cfm

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