My question to you is this – how do you carry on with your ‘proactive’ empty homes work without a current list of empty homes? And my reply is – it’s quite tricky!
So for the past six months I’ve been without a list of empty homes. This was due to our council tax group having a new system installed followed by time taken for staff training including training on how to run off tailored reports like the ones I get.
Finally on 4 July I received my first list of empty homes on the new system and I have to say it’s actually better in many ways than the old one. However it’s made me realise how all of us doing empty homes work rely on our information from council tax. When changes happen in council tax it can have a direct impact on our own work.
But I haven’t exactly been idle during that time as I decided to use it to concentrate on other things. For example, I’m still getting reports of empty homes to follow up and still getting requests for ‘VAT’ letters.
I’ve also been heavily involved in our empty homes grants management scheme. We’ve had lots of enquiries which resulted in more than three possible properties. Two of these have progressed to tendered schedules of work and we’re waiting to hear back from the owners. And we still have another possible property in the pipeline. Fingers crossed they’ll go ahead and this will give a few families in housing need a much-wanted affordable rented property. Because this is the Lake District with lots of second and holiday homes, we have a huge gap in affordable rented properties. We desperately need affordable rented homes due to low wages and high-cost properties, which is why this is one of our council’s top priorities.
Life may be returning to ‘normal’ and lots of positives on the horizon. Plus what a great summer for empty homes visits….
Best wishes from the Lakes,
Lynne Leach, Empty Homes Officer, South Lakeland District Council