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GOVERNMENT WELCOMES SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT ON EMPTY HOMES

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The government has welcomed a select committee report on empty homes ...
The government has welcomed a select committee report on empty homes

as a valuable contribution to the debate on ensuring long-term empty

homes are brought back into use.

The secretary of state for transport, local government and the

regions, Stephen Byers, said that in areas of neighbourhood decline

and abandonment, empty homes blighted the lives of individuals and

whole communities.

'In all areas we will work with our partners to bring long-term empty

homes back into use. We will continue to provide funding for the

excellent work of the Empty Homes Agency, and encourage local

authorities to develop strategies to tackle this serious problem both

in the social and the private sectors.

'In areas of high demand, empty homes are a potentially valuable

supply of housing. In areas of low demand, bringing abandoned

properties back into use is essential to secure a lasting future for

communities in areas affected by neighbourhood decline.'

Mr Byers welcomed the Committee's analysis of the issue, adding that

the report was aligned closely with the government's own thinking,

particularly in the need for action to turn round the incidence of

low demand for housing.

'In some urban areas, streets of boarded up and abandoned properties

are actually adding to the spiral of decline. We are determined to

tackle this. That is why we have invited nine of the worst affected

areas to work with government to establish pathfinder projects to

restore areas suffering from low demand.'

Notes

1. The transport, local government and the regions select committee

published their Report on Empty Homes on 20 March.

2. The bulk of the committee's recommendations concerned the need for

intervention in inner urban areas, suffering from low demand for

housing. DTLR estimates 880,000 homes are in areas of low demand, of

which 520,000 are private and 360,000 social housing.

3. Low demand housing is defined as:

i) in the case of private sector housing, neighbourhoods of at least

50 dwellings where private sector housing is predominant and one or

more of the following symptoms apply:

- private property value particularly low and/or falling in absolute

terms;

- high private sector void rate;

- high turnover of population;

- significant incidence of long-term private sector voids or

abandoned properties;

- visibly high incidence of properties for sale or let.

ii) In the case of social housing, housing in blocks or management

patches of at least 50 dwellings where one or more of the following

symptoms is exhibited:

- a small or non-existent waiting list;

- tenancy offers frequently refused;

- high rates of voids available for letting;

- high rates of tenancy turnover;

iii) or where marketing initiatives or exceptional allocations

polices have been implemented to counter low demand/unpopularity.

4. On 10 April the secretary of state invited nine of the areas most

acutely affected by low demand to work with government to establish

pathfinder projects to tacklethe problem. Pathfinder project areas

have been selected by analysis of the prevalence of low demand for

housing, and study of different housing markets. The details of the

pathfinders are:

Manchester: north and east Manchester/central Salford; Merseyside:

inner Liverpool, south Sefton and parts of Wirral; East Lancashire:

Blackburn, Hyndburn, Burnley, Pendle Oldham/Rochdale: South

Yorkshire: north Sheffield, north Rotherham, south Barnsley and west

Doncaster; Humberside: Hull and adjacent areas of the East Riding of

Yorkshire; Tyneside: Newcastle, Gateshead; North Staffordshire: Stoke

on Trent and east Newcastle under Lyme; Birmingham/Sandwell: north

west Birmingham and east Sandwell.

5. Empty homes are not just an issue for low demand areas. The

government is determined to reduce the levels of vacant dwellings in

all areas, and has increased funding for the Empty Homes Agency to

work with local authorities on empty homes strategies. In addition,

the£1bn regeneration package announced in Budget 2001 included

several initiatives to tackle empty homes and redundant commercial

properties, such as reducing VAT to 5 per cent on the cost of

renovation homes empty for 3 years or more, and 100 per cent capital

allowances for conversion of redundant space over shops into flats.

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