Bringing empty homes back into use is proving the key to solving Bedford’s housing crisis.
Over the past year 126 empty properties have become occupied through the borough council’s no nonsense initiative – which includes the threat of compulsory purchase.
This week housing committee councillors heard how the Empty Home Programme was producing “phenomenal” results. Fifteen houses are currently in the process of being compulsory purchased by the council, while dozens more owners or landlords have been told to ‘fill up or sell up’.
Labour Group Leader, Councillor Sue Oliver said: “It is astonishing how much has been done. The number of empty homes has gone down from 598 to 472 in just over a year. Previously, it was something like five in the last 10 years.”
The results are thanks to a full-time empty homes officer and £2.89 million worth of funding. Councillor Oliver added: “Bringing empty homes back into use was a long and protracted process but now we have the power and the funding to do it,” she said.
“People now have an incentive to bring homes back into use because we can compulsory purchase them. And I’m proud to say we are probably leading the country in this, and other councils can follow our lead.”
A recent success story is a property in Edward Road, which was a “blot on the landscape” but is about to become a family home.
The scheme continues to be funded by reinvesting the money made from selling purchased properties.
As well as solving the housing shortage, the scheme also reduces the negative impact of anti-social behaviour and vandalism that empty properties can bring to a community.
Councillors heard there is currently a potential expenditure of £1.94m on 29 properties. Some of these have been brought back into use by their owners but 15 are being compulsory purchased.
The council is now looking at other ways to provide much-needed new homes with self-build sites an option.
so people can build their dream home at a more affordable price.