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Hundreds of council homes empty while ‘families are in desperate need of housing’

08 May 2024 3 minute read
Caerphilly picture by Varitek (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter

Hundreds of council houses in one county are currently out of use or in need of repairs while families remain in ‘desperate need’ for housing.

A Caerphilly Councillor said he is “shocked” after learning 324 Caerphilly Council homes are empty “when the need for social housing is so great”.

Nigel Dix, an independent from Blackwood, said the situation was a “lose-lose” and urged the council to address the situation “as quickly as possible”.

“Unusual situation”

Failing to bring long-term empty properties into use in a timely manner could create an unusual situation where the local authority has to pay council tax premiums to itself, under a new policy introduced earlier this year.

Caerphilly Council said it is “routinely” working to bring homes back into use and empty properties are “a priority”.

Figures provided to Cllr Dix, and seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), show:

  • 207 of those homes are being repaired;
  • 54 are awaiting surveys;
  • 47 are being kept back for redevelopment;
  • 9 are being held “for management reasons”;
  • 7 are being held “for decant”.

“I am regularly contacted by families who are in desperate need of housing, yet the Labour-led Caerphilly Council has so many vacant properties that if brought back into use in a timely manner will reduce waiting lists and generate an income,” Cllr Dix said.

“Currently the council is losing money while these properties remain empty, it’s a lose-lose situation that must be addressed as quickly as possible.”

“High priority”

Responding to Cllr Dix’s comments, a spokesperson for Caerphilly Council said: “At any given moment in time, a stock-holding local authority or housing association will have a number of empty properties due to the requirements for repairs or decanting purposes.

“Bringing empty properties back into use is a high priority for us.

“We have also reviewed and enhanced our relet standard, and are now routinely decorating empty properties and installing flooring throughout to support new residents, but this does mean that it takes longer to make a property ready.”

Cllr Dix also told the LDRS he learned the council is liable to pay tax premiums on any of its own properties which stand empty for a long period of time.

Caerphilly Council voted in March to introduce 100% premiums on homes empty for at least two years, effectively doubling council tax bills for owners of those properties.

This will then increase on a sliding scale, to 200% premiums for homes empty for at least three years, and the maximum 300% for homes left empty for more than five years.

Cllr Dix said the policy on long-term empty properties will “rightly be applied to councils” but could end up “heaping more cost” onto local authorities.

“The council aspires to build a thousand new council properties, yet we have so many empty properties that can be used today to help address the chronic shortage of social housing in Caerphilly,” he added.

A council spokesperson said its organisation Caerphilly Homes “will be treated as other landlords when the empty homes premium comes into force, to ensure a level playing field”.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

We have a game; which one will it be today, currently Caerphilly is way in front…

16 days ago

How was the number ever allowed to grow to that level ? or was Caerphilly until recently full of well paid upwardly mobile types who didn’t need that class of housing ? The lack of joined up thinking is breathtaking.

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