Owners and tenants benefit from moves to get empty Selby homes back into use

Selby District Council is taking a two-pronged approach to getting homes left unoccupied for long periods back into use in the district, in a move which should help those seeking accommodation.

Properties can fall out of use for different reasons but when they are left unoccupied they can create problems for others in the neighbourhood and are also unavailable for those needing a home.

The council has already recognised this by introducing stepped increases in property tax charges for unoccupied homes, rising to four times the standard rate for those left unused for ten years or more.

Two further measures are proving successful, including an Empty Homes Grant which will provide funding for essential repairs to help bring properties needing improvement back into use.

A condition of the grant is that the owner makes their property available to the authority’s Homelessness Team, to be occupied by those who are either homeless or at risk of becoming so.

Fifteen homes have been brought back into use since the grants were first offered 18 months ago and there is continued interest in the scheme, particularly from landlords with an interest in supporting vulnerable and ‘at risk’ households.

Where necessary, the council will also employ enforcement action, using Compulsory Purchase Orders to help bring homes back into use rather than remaining vacant. 

Proceedings were started against the owner of a house in Selby and although the process has been complex, there are now plans for it to be sold in the near future, rather than the council proceeding with the CPO.

When homes are left vacant, council officials try to contact owners to offer assistance as the break-points for increased council tax charges are passed, with costs to owners doubling from two years, tripling at five years and quadrupling from 10 years of no occupancy.

It is known that empty homes can create problems and complaints to the council, police and fire service around unoccupied housing are familiar. Neighbours can suffer problems as a result and, in some cases, may even see the value of their own homes affected.

Leader of Selby District Council, Councillor Mark Crane, said: “Homes fall out of use for all sorts of reasons and in Selby, we do everything we can to avert that situation.

“Sometimes owners don’t know what to do with an empty property and need help or guidance, which we can offer.

“Our grant scheme means everyone can win, because if an empty home is rented out it provides an income and creates a decent home which will give the tenant some stability in their lives. 

“If necessary, the council is able to take enforcement action, but this is a last resort which would be used only after trying all other methods to get a home back into use."