'Life-giving' work looks to bring back hundreds of empty homes in county
- Credit: Paul Nixon/ East Suffolk Council/ Getty Images/iStockphoto
Community leaders say they are looking to give life back to Suffolk villages by helping to deal with the issue of long-term empty properties.
The latest available data shows that thousands of homes across the county are empty, with some of these having been left in a dilapidated state.
East Suffolk Council is looking again at the issue in its scrutiny committee next week.
In the committee's report it notes that in 2020/21 1,976 homes across the district had been empty for some length of time.
Of these properties, 316 have been empty for over two years and 45 houses for over 10 years.
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The report also noted that the pandemic had seen an increase in the time taken for properties to be disposed of and re-occupied.
In East Suffolk, the council have had some successes when it comes to dealing with the housing issues and deal with local auction houses to help homeowners move properties on.
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A property left empty for 17 years near Wickham Market was dealt with after the owner left to care for relatives in 2004 and never returned.
It took months for the council to find the owner who was eventually helped to sell up. The house has since been renovated and is back up for sale again.
Richard Kerry, cabinet member with responsibility for housing at East Suffolk Council, said that his team was working hard to bring homes back onto the market.
"There are a lot of reasons it could be empty," he said.
"Mostly because someone has passed away.
"We try our best to get them out there."
Mr Kerry said there was a wider community benefit to spending time bringing these properties back into use.
"It gives the whole village a life," he said.
However, it's not just East Suffolk where many homes remain empty.
Number of long term empty homes
Councils across Suffolk have properties that are registered as empty within the district.
However, council officials warned that the numbers registered may not reflect the whole picture as homeowners don't have to register their property as empty.
A Babergh and Mid Suffolk District spokesman said: “We fully support the need for empty homes to be returned to use as set out in our five-year Homes and Housing Strategy. We are employing a new empty homes officer by the end of the year who will be dedicated to tackling this issue across Babergh and Mid Suffolk.
“This is in addition to existing support the council provides to landlords to ensure that homes do not become empty, including the Rent Guarantee Scheme run by Central Suffolk Lettings which provides cash incentives to landlords who let their properties.
“We are also offering grants of up to £20,000 to landlords to help bring empty homes back into use and provide more local families with a place of their own.”