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Labour Group initiative gets £3million for Empty Homes Project

Labour councillors pressed for action to hasten bringing the 500+ empty homes back into use. Result - £3m investment to tackle problem of empty homes across Bedford Borough.

Councillors Sue Oliver, Colleen Atkins and Shan Hunt (pictured) pressed for a full time dedicated officer and funding to speed up the number of homes brought back into using Compulsory Purchase Orders. Now almost £3 million is being invested over the next four years in helping to bring empty homes back into use. Bedford Borough Council is funding the project to tackle the problem of long-term empty homes.

£2,849,000 has been allocated up to the end of 2017-18 to tackle this problem, much of which is expected to be recouped by the eventual sale of properties.

Cllr Colleen Atkins, Executive Member with responsibility for Operational Housing, said: “We’re working hard to reduce the number of empty homes in the borough. An empty property is a wasted property and has a negative impact on the environment and local community when it could be providing a much-needed home for a local person or family.

“This extra funding, along with the new dedicated Empty Homes Officer post, will speed up the process of Compulsory Purchase Orders. We’ll be able to bring more empty properties back into use more quickly.”

80% of owners of empty properties actually live in the borough itself, not elsewhere in the country or abroad, so they’re part of our community too.

The council says: “If you own one of these empty properties, please come to talk to us to discuss your options. Otherwise those who choose not to engage with us will be made aware of the legal powers the Council is able to use to force homes back into use, including Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) which are the most successful and effective method.”

In September, a fourth CPO in the last four years has been successfully completed by the Council’s Housing Strategy team for a long-term empty property, at 26 Edward Road in Bedford (pictured). Ward councillors Sue Oliver and Randolph Charles welcome the move. The property illustrates a wasted resource and the potential problems that can be associated with empty homes. It has been unoccupied for more than 14 years, since Valentine’s Day in 2000, and since then it has suffered from squatters, fly-tipping which attracted vermin and also allowed water damage to a neighbouring property, leading it to be boarded by its owner for security reasons.

An ongoing blight on the area, the property has led to complaints from local residents over the years who have wanted it tidied up and brought back into use. The owner had been encouraged since 2007 to bring the house back into use and when he failed to engage and make any attempt to tackle the problems, this prompted the Council to use a CPO with the process starting last year.

Since 2007, there have been numerous attempts by the Council’s Environmental Health team to get the owner to secure the property, clear the rubbish, deal with the vermin and tackle the leak which was damaging the adjoining property. The owner’s reluctance to take any action acted as a stimulus for the successful CPO.

The Council’s Property Services team will be looking to market the property as soon as possible which is likely to be via an informal tender process operated through a local estate agent. The new owner will then have 12 months to bring the property back into use.

If you know about an empty house, please report it to the council.

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