Memorandum by the East Riding of Yorkshire
Council (EMP 21)
EMPTY PROPERTIESWASTED HOMES
The East Riding of Yorkshire Council is the
largest unitary authority in England and is predominantly rural
in nature. There are a number of concentrated areas of deprivation
caused by the decline in seaside resorts and traditional industrial
areas. The East Riding is committed to maximising the potential
of the housing stock and in bringing empty homes back into use.
To this end the Council has developed a package of tools for this
2. PROBLEMS CAUSED
Increased pressure on Greenfield
site development to provide housing.
Pressure on existing housing stock:
lack of accommodation, especially affordable accommodation, in
rural areas within commuter access of cities.
Blight and neighbourhood degeneration
in areas of low demand either due to people leaving the area or
properties of a size unsuitable for current demand.
Crime and anti-social behaviour.
Devaluation of surrounding properties
and reduced possibility of sale of adjacent property.
3. WHY ARE
Empty homes are found in villages and towns
across the East Riding. For each property there is a unique set
of reasons as to why it is empty. Some examples are:
Owners reluctant to let the property.
Owners keeping property for retirement.
Property inherited and owners unsure
what to do with it.
Limited or no market for selling
or letting in present condition.
Second home or holiday home.
Disrepair and owner unable to renovate
due to financial reasons.
Owners unaware of advice and financial
assistance that is available.
Areas of low demand for private sector
4. SOME BARRIERS
Lack of clear information as to the
ability or otherwise to make use of council tax data for identifying
owners of empty homes.
Length of time taken to undertake
a CPO under current procedures (s 17 Housing Act 1985). There
is a need for a fast-track procedure for councils when pursuing
a CPO as part of a published corporate empty property strategy.
No financial disincentive/penalty
for owners of long-term empty property who are unwilling or refuse
to bring them back into productive use.
Lack of clarification as to the content
of the source list to determine the baseline number of empty properties
that have been vacant for more than six months for the purposes
of the best value performance indicator 64.
5. POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
The problem of empty homes exists across the
whole country, in areas of high housing demand by their waste,
they deny people a home and increase development pressure on edge
of town and greenfield sites. In areas of low demand they create
areas of dereliction and decay attracting crime and anti-social
behaviour and devaluing surrounding properties. The pressures
and the possible solutions vary from region to region, indeed
from neighbourhood to neighbourhood across England. The focus
until recently has been based in the South and Midlands. It is
becoming increasingly recognised that the north faces issues,
which cannot be resolved by those solutions, which are effective
in the south, where there is greater housing demand.
Use of informationthere is
currently confusion as to whether information about empty homes
ie in particular the personal contact details of empty property
owners held on a Council Tax Database can be used by the collecting
local authority for any purpose other than the collection and
administration of Council Tax under the 1992 Local Government
& Finance Act. The Data Protection Registrar has supplied
opinion to suggest that any such use, as part of an empty property
strategy is not acceptable. However some local authorities have
obtained counsel's opinion indicating that under the Local Government
Act 2000 the general consent for councils to pursue any policy
to further the economic, social or environmental well being of
local residents takes precedent. This situation is counterproductive
and does not facilitate "joined up" thinking. Furthermore
when instigating dialogue with the owner of an empty property
the other means available to an empty property practitioner to
secure an owner's details are both lengthy and not as reliable.
This in turn can lead to problems in the longer term if Compulsory
Purchase or Enforced Sale become the final sanctions in returning
a property to occupation.
100 per cent council tax campaignthe
East Riding of Yorkshire Council has an estimated 1,900 second
homes. Currently owners are charged a maximum of 50 per cent of
the Council Tax. The underwriting message could be that there
is a financial incentive for second homeowners. Whilst children
of residents in the same village (hidden households) are prevented
from accessing affordable accommodation due to artificially inflated
This Authority would welcome a discretionary
power for Councils to charge up to 100 per cent Council Tax on
long term empties in its area and for further discretion for this
authority to be able to set its own definition of what is long
term empty in relation to the local housing market.
The planning system and capacity
buildingThe Yorkshire and Humberside regional housing requirements
to 2016 (as set out in the emerging Regional Planning Guidance)
has taken account of the anticipated number of empty homes across
the region. It has therefore been dealt with in the housing requirement
figure rather than being considered by individual authorities
across the region as one of the factors contributing or adding
to (depending on whether the level of empty homes is decreasing
or increasing) the housing requirement figure. This approach has
precluded this Council (and others in the region) dealing with
it as an element of Urban Capacity, which the Government's Good
Practice Guide on this topic advises we should.
6. SUMMARY RESPONSE
The East Riding of Yorkshire Council welcomes
the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions
Select Committee inquiry into empty homes. The scope of the inquiry
is broad ranging and stands to highlight the far reaching implications
of properties that are left empty in the long term, and the resulting
effects of this in areas of low demand and associated slow decline.
Senior Environmental Health Officer
Housing Standards Team