The Head of Performance and Partnership Services submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to seek approval from Cabinet to formally adopt the Empty Property Strategy 2019-2023 attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
By way of background, he confirmed that bringing empty properties back into use is a priority for the Local Authority, as well as a commitment for the leadership for Bridgend County Borough Council. The Strategy sets out the intention that “the Council” and its partners shall seek to reduce empty properties across the Borough and help contribute towards increasing the availability of housing for sale or for rent’.
In order to achieve this priority, an Empty Property Working Group had been formed, consisting of representatives from each service within the Authority that works with empty properties. The main objective of the Working Group is to deliver the strategic objectives of bringing back into use long-term empty residential properties.
Registered Landlords Association recognises the impact empty properties can have on an area and community and welcomed the proposals, and supported the need for a robust strategy which provides clarification on the sanctions and enforcements actions available.
A number of updates have been made to the draft Strategy and these were outlined in paragraph 4.6 of the report.
With regards to progress to date, the Head of Performance and Partnership Services advised, that in addition to reporting on the national empty property Public Accountability Measures (PAMs) annually, the work resulting from the Strategy will be measured and reported on in terms of the quantity of engagement and enforcement carried out, in order to demonstrate the efforts that are being made to bring empty properties back into use. This will include recording numbers of letters distributed, responses received, and enforcement action taken. Certain statistical information to date in respect of this, was shown in paragraph 4.7 of the report.
The impact of these activities has meant that, of the properties assessed and scored by the Council using the criteria contained within the Strategy as being in the top 20 list of problem properties:-
5 - are now in use
2 - are listed for auction this month
5 - are under discussion for possible Section 215 action
2 - are For Sale following extensive engagement
1 – is held by Planning due to Bats roosting in the property which requires Welsh Government Guidance
3 - grant applications submitted but refused as eligibility criteria not met
2 - are under discussion with legal in relation to further enforcement action to be taken
The Strategy intervention will be measured and reported on, in terms of the quantity of engagement and enforcement carried out.
The Head of Performance and Partnership Services, concluded his submission, by confirming that as of April 2019 there were 1296 private sector residential properties that were empty for six months or more this accounts for 2% of residential properties.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing, extended her thanks to the Empty Property Working Group and the improvements that they had introduced, in respect of delivering the strategic objectives of bringing back into use long-term empty residential properties. She added that she looked forward to seeing further in-roads being made in the future, to making more properties habitable in the valley areas of the County Borough where there still remained a considerable number of vacant properties.
The Leader was pleased to see that the issue regarding Empty Properties in the County Borough had previously been considered by the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee and would be revisited in order to gauge progress, in March of next year. He hoped that in the future, the Council could consider putting a premium on Council Tax for properties that remained empty long term, as wherever possible, empty properties he felt should be occupied.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet formally adopted the Empty Property Strategy 2019-2023.