[Note: Councillors S.L. Davies, K.V. Broom, M. James, D.E. Williams and S.A. Curry had earlier declared an interest in this item and remained in the meeting during the deliberation and voting thereof]
The Council was informed that the Cabinet, at its meeting held on the 27th March 2023 (minute 8 refers) had considered a report which provided an introduction to the Empty Homes Policy that set the vision and the work programme for the Council in tackling empty private residential homes within the County for the next 3 years. The report provided clear direction on the approach and where efforts would be focussed to meet this and other policy goals.
The Cabinet Member reported that empty homes were a wasted resource when there was a shortage of housing across the County, including rural wards. These properties were reported as being a blight on neighbourhoods and could be a focus for anti-social behaviour.
The Council had committed to bringing empty homes back into use as quickly as possible and had worked with the owners of empty homes and partners to take all available opportunities to help tackle the issue of long-term empty properties.
The Cabinet Members advised that bringing empty homes back into use could help address a number of housing and social issues by increasing supply in areas where there were housing shortages and pressures and where there were opportunities to link to other regeneration projects.
The Policy set out the approach and would allow officers to target certain types of properties, in certain areas, and would give clarity and confidence in any actions undertaken.
Additionally, it was noted that progress had been made over the past five years to reduce the overall number of empty homes through persistent activity and action to encourage/ enforce against homeowners to bring them back into use. The current number reported was 1,984 (Sep 2022). This represented approximately 2.1% of the overall housing stock within the County.
In response to a query regarding the timescales for turning around the Council’s own empty properties the Cabinet Member advised that timescales varied considerably depending on the state of the property. It was noted that timescales had reduced significantly.
In response to a query regarding the potential use of pod type homes which are currently being trialled by Newport Council the Cabinet Member confirmed that the Authority had looked at this solution however the preference was to provide permanent homes to residents and that pods were only suitable for very short term occupation.
RESOLVED that the following recommendations of the Cabinet be adopted:-
· the Empty Homes Policy - “Our Approach to Bringing Empty Homes Back in to Use” be approved.