Housing hit list

Council sets sights on empty homes hit-list

Liverpool City Council is setting to work on a new ‘hit-list’ of empty properties in the city – and pledging to take firm action to bring them back into use.

The council’s housing team has begun contacting the owners of the top 1,000 empty homes in the city. Owners are being encouraged to bring their properties back into use as quickly as possible, and are being informed that enforcement action will be taken, where appropriate.

The new clampdown, which gets underway during National Empty Homes Week (25 November – 1 December), is part of the city’s three-year ‘Bringing Empty Homes Back Into Use’ programme, which aims to tackle void properties across Liverpool, deal with problem landlords and improve the standard of the city’s rented accommodation.

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, said: “We are absolutely determined to bring empty homes across the city back into use and provide valuable homes for our residents. Identifying and targeting this hit list is a hugely important part of our work to achieve that.

“Properties left vacant blight our neighbourhoods and are a wasted resource. They can lead to a reduction in overall property values and can deteriorate rapidly, causing real problems for the community – including the accumulation of rubbish, vermin infestations, the risk of injury to children who enter buildings and arson.

“This clampdown sends out the message loud and clear that we are serious about tackling this problem. Supported by our 10 point pledge for landlords, we will work with owners to encourage them to bring their properties back into use. Where enforcement is necessary, we will have no hesitation in taking action.”

The top 1,000 empty properties have been prioritised according to:

• Whether the property falls within one of the priority areas identified in the city’s Empty Homes Plan
• The impact the property is having in an area
• The level of complaints received
• The level of outstanding debt owed to the council

Housing officers are now contacting owners to find out why their property is vacant; whether there are any barriers to bringing it back into use; and what support or advice they might need.

The new push, backed up by the powers to take enforcement action, is expected to prompt many more owners to take the necessary action to bring their properties up to scratch.

Liverpool’s Empty Homes programme supports the Mayor of Liverpool’s pledge to deliver 5,000 new and refurbished homes for the city by 2016. It includes a 10 point pledge on landlord issues. The pledge aims to build on the positive relationship the council has with many landlords while taking a robust stance against the small minority of poor landlords and provide a level playing field for all.

The 10 point pledge includes:

• The adoption of a Liverpool Standard for private rented housing which will set out the minimum standards expected of landlords.
• A free, voluntary register for landlords to encourage better communications with the council.
• A citywide landlord accreditation scheme, and ‘Scores on the Doors’ service which recognise good landlords.
Incentives for landlords who manage their properties well, including access to renewal funding.
• A dedicated website for landlords and tenants and confidential freephone line where people can report unregistered or poor quality landlords.
• A Landlords Advisory Group, comprised of landlords and also lettings and managing agents
• A Rogue Landlords Hit Squad, which will seek out and investigate poor landlords and take appropriate action.

Liverpool has achieved significant success in recent months in securing Government funding to tackle vacant properties. The city was awarded £13.5 million in ‘Clusters of Empty Homes funding’ in May which will bring over 700 empty homes back into use, including in the Anfield and Welsh Streets areas of the city.

The city also hopes to build on the success of the ‘Beautiful North’ voids pilot, which brought over 200 properties back into use in 2011.

National Empty Homes Week is organised by the charity Empty Homes to highlight the waste of empty property nationwide, to celebrate the success of numerous examples and new initiatives to bring empty homes back into use and to encourage more widespread action.

New statistics released by the charity show that although there has been a reduction of 10,000 in the number of empty homes in England over the past year, the figure still stands at over 710,000. Almost 260,000 of these are identified as long-term vacant properties.

Liverpool Waterfront