Bridgend Council to consult on stricter empty homes policy

(Title Image: Bridgend Housing Options)

Towards the beginning of 2018, I wrote about what BCBC were doing to address empty properties in Bridgend. This week the Cabinet is due to discuss a new draft strategy to address empty residential properties the county (pdf). If the Cabinet agree, it’ll be put out for consultation shortly.

The Scale of the Problem

The number of empty private residential properties in Bridgend county has increased slightly from the last time I wrote about this – up to 1255 from 1233, the equivalent of 2% of all residential properties in the county.

Just under half (48%) of all empty homes are in the three main town centres – Bridgend, Porthcawl and Maesteg – though the Ogmore Valley and Garw Valley are over-represented compared to their relative population shares.

Many of the empty properties are 3-bedroom homes and the strategy states that to meet the demand for 1-bedroom homes in the county, many would have to be converted either into single apartments or shared housing.

How BCBC intends to deal with empty houses

The strategy sets out the process by which BCBC will tackle empty properties.

  • Stage 1 – A referral/complaint by a councillor, MP, AM, police or member of the public. BCBC will then use council tax data to try and determine who owns the property in question.
  • Stage 2 – BCBC traces the owner, determines how long it’s been empty for and grades the general condition of the building, determining its priority for action.
  • Stage 3 – BCBC contacts the owner and the owner either addresses any particular concerns and brings it back into use or….
  • Stage 4 – In circumstances where the owner is unable or unwilling to bring a home back into use, notices can be served, the property can be bought via a Compulsory Purchase Order and re-sold on a case-by-case basis.

The report to Cabinet (pdf) says £100,000 of capital funding will be made available for housing renewal and to deal with empty homes.

Council Tax discount for empty and second homes set to be ended

Related to this, but in a separate report, the full council is set to discuss another measure to deal with empty homes (pdf).

At the moment, empty and second homes are eligible for a 50% reduction in council tax, though local authorities have the power to remove this discount.

BCBC have, to date, only applied the discount to empty unfurnished properties, properties which are being renovated and empty properties which are being marketed for sale or to rent.

Officers have now recommended to full council that this discount is removed. If they agree, the discount will be removed as of 1st April 2019 and is expected to raise up to an additional £933,000 in council tax for 2019-20 – though officers warn this is an upper estimate and is unlikely to be achieved.

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