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Hundreds of homes stand empty

More than 1,500 homes in South Kesteven and 400 homes in Rutland are sitting empty, despite a national housing crisis which has left thousands of families homeless.

And newly released figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that hundreds of properties have been left unoccupied for at least six months.

In October last year, when the most recent count was taken, there were 1,587 vacant homes in South Kesteven - one in every 39 houses in the area. Of those, 448 were classed as long-term vacancies, meaning that they had been unoccupied for at least six months.

The problem of empty homes in South Kesteven has improved in recent years. In 2008, when the number of vacant properties peaked nationwide, there were 2,014 in the area.

Across England, there were more than 600,000 vacant properties last October, over a third of which were long-term vacancies.

In Rutland, in October, there were 476 vacant homes in Rutland - one in every 36 houses in the area. Of those, 127 were classed as long-term vacancies, meaning that they had been unoccupied for at least six months.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “In the midst of a homelessness crisis it is of course frustrating to see houses left empty. But the fact is that even if we filled every one of these, there still wouldn’t be nearly enough homes to solve the problem.

Figures show that 450 new homes were built in South Kesteven last year and in total, 478 new homes were created, including those converted from office blocks or houses split into flats.

In Rutland, 242 new homes were built in Rutland last year with 264 new homes being created.

South Kesteven District Council cabinet member for housing Nick Neilson said: “From a council tax perspective we have around 1,200 properties classified as empty, which is approximately 1.9 per cent of the number of dwellings in the district.

“They are privately owned and as such owners may choose to leave them empty, but we can help them bring them up to a good standard to provide affordable accommodation for the rental market through our Empty Homes Assistance grants.”

The grants provide financial assistance of up to £5,000 to help landlords bring empty homes up to the decent homes standard and back into use for the private rental market at an affordable rent.

Strategic director for places at Rutland County Council Steve Ingram said: “Our latest housing and homelessness strategy aims to cut the number of properties left vacant for more than six months by 15 per cent between 2016 and 2019.

“This is being helped by recent council tax reforms which have done away with discounts and increased charges for people who own empty homes.

“So far this year, 27 empty homes have been returned to use following intervention by the council.”

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