Shadow Minister for Housing visits Bedford to talk about empty properties and homelessness

Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds visited the YMCA in Bedford.
Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds visited the YMCA in Bedford.

Around 800 houses in Bedford and Kempston have been identified as being long term empty under a council scheme to crackdown on vacant properties.

The figure was revealed during a visit on Tuesday by Shadow Minister for Housing Emma Reynolds who was welcomed to Bedford by Labour’s parliamentary candidate for the area Patrick Hall.

She visited homes that have been compulsory purchased by Bedford Borough and will be spruced up before being sold on the open market for a profit.

Mr Hall said: “We are talking about long-term voids - houses that have not been put into use for sometime, may years.

“There is a desperate need for affordable housing so if we have got properties that the owners don’t do anything with for years and years it is a waste.”

The initiative to buy up empty properties was championed by the Labour party before being adopted by the council last year.

Mr Hall said: “These houses are owned by people who don’t want to do anything with them. Once owners know that we are doing this then some of them will do up the house themselves. In some cases it triggers them into action. Others that don’t want to do anything will have their properties compulsory purchased.”

During her visit to Bedford Mrs Reynolds was also given a tour of the YMCA in Spenser Road where she learnt about it’s Beds for All project, which aims to support individuals who are street homeless, who are in hospital and are likely to be discharged back on to the streets.

In- patient care of someone of ‘no fixed abode’ costs eight times more than a ‘housed’ person and they are likely to stay in hospital up to three times longer.

Mr Hall said: “We all know the hospital is under pressure with an increase in admissions this year and the YMCA facility provides much needed help and support for vulnerable people to get back on their feet once they are discharged.”

Support co-ordinator at the hostel Robert Hull said: “The primary need for our residents is to be somewhere safe and supportive so that can focus their energy on getting better which would be almost impossible if they were living on the streets.”