120 abandoned homes brought back into use in the past year

SOME 120 dilapidated or abandoned properties have been brought back into use during the last 12 months, says the council.

Over the past year, there has been a 35 per cent reduction in the number of long-term empty homes – from 344 as of October 2014 to 224 (present day).

At its peak in 2005, as many as 437 privately-owned properties stood vacant, reducing the supply of available housing.

Conservative Councillor Colin Kemp, Portfolio Holder for Homelink & Private Sector Housing, said that with such high demand for living space, it is ‘inconceivable’ that there should be hundreds of such properties locally.

He added: “Not only is that an awful waste, but vacant properties also attract trouble and blight communities.”

While empty homes are bad news for hundreds of families desperately in need of accommodation, they are also a concern for the surrounding area, and often become a problem for neighbours. As a target for crime and vandalism, such properties can devalue neighbouring homes by as much as 18 per cent.

The council say that understanding why homes become vacant in the first place has been key to bringing them back into use.

Reasons include the owner going into care, a prolonged gap between tenants, repossession or probate.

In some cases, a property can fall into disrepair because the occupier is simply unable to manage its upkeep.

“The reasons surrounding empty properties are complex and lengthy,” explained Cllr Kemp, who has made it his priority to drive down the number of derelict homes locally.

“We are ridding the borough of its abandoned properties at the rate of 10 per month: either filling them with grateful families or moving the building on to the next stage, which might be renovation or redevelopment of the site.”

Of the 120 homes returned to use, the majority were either sold or rented out following refurbishment works facilitated by the council. Cllr Kemp concluded with a warning to all homeowners: “Properties can become vacant at any time.

“Anyone concerned about an empty property in their neighbourhood should contact us at the council so it can either be secured in the owner’s absence or made available to others.

“By not utilising an empty property owners could be losing as much as £13,000 every year through rental loss, council tax, security, high insurance costs and dilapidation.

“We urge owners in this situation to come forward and talk to us. There is a lot of support available and we will always try to work with you to reach an agreeable solution.”

If you are aware of or concerned about an empty property in your neighbourhood, contact Woking Borough Council on 01483 743836 or use the ‘Report It’ facility on the council’s website. Similarly, if you are an owner of an empty property locally, or overseeing one on someone else’s behalf, simply log on to woking.gov.uk/emptyhomes to view the range of options available
to you.

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