Council targets empty homes owners

Owners of homes left empty in Kingston face being forced to sell them or have them bought by the council in a bid to tackle homelessness, boost the local economy and reduce risks and nuisance.

More than 800 empty homes have been brought back into use by Kingston Council since 2010 by negotiating with owners and giving them grants to do up properties. 

Now an action plan to target even more homes left vacant for six months or more has been agreed, including possible enforcement action. 

More than 300 homes are still lying empty in Kingston, around 86 per cent of which are owned privately.

Neglected homes tend to have overgrown gardens which attract rats and are targets for fly-tippers, squatters and vandals, bringing down the values of neighbouring properties. 

Kingston Council’s plan that will force owners to return properties to use includes enforced sales, orders allowing the council to take over management of empty dwellings, and compulsory purchase orders. 

Councillor Patricia Bamford, Kingston Council’s Lead Member for Better Homes, said: 

“We can’t let hundreds of much-needed homes go to waste. We want to slash the number of long-term empty properties in the borough and to increase the supply of decent, affordable homes for people who need them.

“We have persuaded hundreds of owners to bring their empty properties back into use but there are a number willing to just leave them empty. We will take action against owners where informal approaches prove unsuccessful.”

Kingston has received more than £4million under the New Homes Bonus where it gets £8,763 over six years for every empty property brought back into use. 

For every homeless family housed in an empty property the council saves £8,000 a year in temporary accommodation costs. 

The council is owed £128,000 Council Tax on long-term empty properties.