Call for action on 'housing crisis' as number of empty houses in Preston rises to almost 2,000
Latest figures provided by Preston City Council show that there are currently 1,916 empty properties in Preston - but the waiting lists for community housing still sit at a staggering 4,000.
And the latest figures show that 791 of these homes have been sat empty for more than six months.
And 392 have been vacant for more than two years, 101 for more than five years, and 42 for over a decade.
The news comes as campaign group Action on Empty Homes said it is "exceptionally worrying" that more than half a million homes lie unused across England, while tens of thousands of families forced to live in temporary accommodation.
It added that properties without residents should instead offer "vitally needed housing" to the homeless.
The Preston Community Gateway Association (CGA) revealed that there are 3,754 applicants on the housing waiting list for the city.
Director Will McMahon said: “It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising.
"There are over 100,000 children languishing in overcrowded and temporary accommodation at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of the coronavirus and to higher mortality.
"It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse."
Of the total figure, 338 homes have 'second home status', 150 are left empty as the owner has deceased and 111 are empty because their owners are in care.
Separate figures from the Ministry of Housing show the number of households in temporary accommodation in Preston is rising.
There were 67 households without their own homes as of September, including 31 children, which was up from 21 in September 2019.
They are among 59,400 families, including 120,600 children, in temporary accommodation across England.
The council say it attempts to work with property owners to bring the homes back into use before they follow legal routes.
Chris Hayward, Director of Development and Housing at Preston City Council, said: “We are fortunate to have a small but dedicated team of officers identifying long-term empty properties, with a great track record of working to bring these back into use.
"There are many reasons why houses can sit empty for long periods – where the owner is deceased or in long-term care, where major renovations are required or taking place, or are marketed for sale or rent over a longer period of time.
"While there are legal options available to us, such as compulsory purchase orders, this is an intensive and lengthy process so they are used as a last resort. A more efficient way in most cases is to liaise and work with owners to bring them back into use.
"In addition, our innovative work with Community Gateway Association on the Making Homes from Houses scheme is making a really positive difference. We are investing millions of points in the programme which is renovating empty properties so they can be brought back into use as affordable rented homes for those in housing need.”
Preston City Council identifies empty homes, then trace and liaise with the owners. If an owner is amenable to selling, the Council let the Community Gateway know and once inspected, if suitable, they purchase and refurbish the properties for rental.
Stephen Galbraith, Development Manager added: “Not only does the Making Homes from Houses project help reduce waiting lists, but it’s also warmly welcomed by residents whose local area has been blighted by an empty, often rundown property for years.
"Moreover, it can be costly for some – for example in a row of terraced houses, neighbouring homes are also losing heat through having a neglected, unheated empty property next door."
According to the Ministry of Housing, there were 268,000 long-term empty homes across the country – 19 per cent more than the previous October, the biggest annual increase since current records began in 2004.
An MHCLG spokesman said: “We have given councils powers and strong incentives to tackle empty homes, including the power to increase council tax by up to 300% on these properties, and take over the management of homes that have been empty for a long period.
“They also receive the same New Homes Bonus for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one."
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