Week of action targets empty homes in County Durham

Empty homes 2019

A week of action will take place in County Durham this month as a council continues to crackdown on empty homes.

Durham County Council is taking part in National Empty Homes Week from Monday 23 to Sunday 29 September to raise awareness of the issue and to promote the work it is undertaking to bring vacant properties back into use.

In County Durham, there are more than 6,000 properties that have been empty for six months or more. The council is working with partner organisations, including the police, fire service, housing providers, landlords and community groups, to support the owners of these properties to return them back into use and help meet the local housing need.

Throughout the week, a series of events and walkabouts will take place to help the council’s dedicated empty homes team reach out to even more residents, empty home owners and key agencies. It will be an opportunity for residents to highlight problems in their communities and for empty home owners to find out more about the support on offer to revitalise their properties.

Cllr Kevin Shaw, the council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “Empty homes are not only a loss of valuable housing, but they can impact on communities by attracting flytipping. anti-social behaviour and crime. They also make neighbourhoods unattractive, which can deter people from buying or renting properties in the area.

“Tackling the problem of long-term empty properties is a key aim of our housing and homelessness strategies. We will continue to work with our partners, including landlords, agents and associates, to address the issue and increase the supply of affordable accommodation across the county. I would encourage people to get involved in National Empty Homes Week to find out about what support we offer and to raise any issues they have.”

Events taking place include:

  • Tuesday 24 September: An Empty Homes Roadshow for empty home owners at The Durham Centre in Belmont from 2pm until 4.30pm. Presentations will be given on how to keep properties safe and the support available from the council, and home owners will be able to feedback assistance they need from agencies. Booking is required as places are limited.
  • Wednesday 25 September: Resident drop-in session at Clayport Library in Millennium Place, Durham, from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Residents can find out about the team’s work and how to report an empty home.
  • Friday 27 September: Multi-agency walkabout in Dean Bank, Ferryhill, from 2pm.

There will also be awareness sessions for councillors and representatives from a range of partner agencies.

The activities complement the council’s preferred approach of support, education and encouragement. Since 2014, more than 700 properties have been brought back into use through negotiations with their owners.

Financial assistance is also available, and over the past five years, the council has provided £4 million of interest free loans. These have helped 247 people to become home owners and 202 owners to renovate their properties.

The council’s Private Landlord Accreditation Scheme also supports landlords to uphold property standards and provides accommodation for homeless residents. There are currently 150 members who are responsible for more than 3,100 properties across the county.

Meanwhile, a consultation is underway over proposals to increase council tax charges for homes that have been unoccupied for more than two years. The consultation runs until Sunday, 6 October. For more information and to take part, visit www.durham.gov.uk/consultation.

To support or attend a National Empty Homes Week event, contact 03000 260 000 or privatesectorhousing@durham.gov.uk

For more information about how the council and its partners tackles empty homes, visit www.durham.gov.uk/landlordaccreditation or www.durham.gov.uk/housing

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