While over 1,600 people are on the Cotswolds District Council’s Homeseeker waiting list, with hundreds of them in priority need, 488 properties are unoccupied. 70 have been vacant for the past two years.
Such property can cost the owner up to £10,000 yearly in security, repairs, insurance, and council tax.
Government has used several means to ensure these houses become occupied.
The local authority has placed a 50% premium on council tax for any house left empty for more than 2 years. The government has agreed to double that total cost from April 2019, for owners who refuse to lease or sell their houses.
In accordance with the Housing Act, the council can enforce empty dwelling management orders and compulsory purchase orders.
The empty dwelling management order gives the council the power to compulsorily lease houses that have been unoccupied for more than 2 years, where other options have failed. A compulsory purchase order allows local authorities to acquire properties that have been vacant for years, without the say of the owner.
Instead of resorting to enforcing these orders, the district council is working with the national campaign charity, Empty Homes, to solve the problem of home seekers.
It has surveyed the properties in the district and is working with owners to ensure the houses are no longer vacant by referring suitable home seekers from the waiting list to house owners, for rent purposes. It is also working on other ways to bring properties back into use.