Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Empty Homes - Empty Promises?

Population pressures continue to cause concern about the level of housing stock in the area despite the recent drop-off in prices, and attention has turned to the large number of properties which stand empty for one reason or another.

In densly-populated west Reading, Battle ward's Independent councillor Tony Jones said the need for decent accomodation is an urgent priority and called a recent increase in the number of empty houses a 'scandal'. According to Cllr Jones Battle ward has also suffered from an above average number of squats which compounds the problems.

He praised the work of opposition LibDem housing spokesman Cllr Daisy Benson in drawing the attention of the ruling Labour party to the issue and highlighted the good work of council officers. After several years of neglect the LibDems have forced RBC to renew it's empty homes strategy, and now the public can report empty homes online by emailing emptyhomes@reading.gov.uk

Cllr Benson has taken up the challenge by writing to government minister Ian Austin MP after noting cuts in the budget of the national Empty Homes Agency. She expresses her frustration at a 3-month delay in recieving minutes of a meeting on the subject (which arrived lacking a detailed action plan) and is cautious whether the response from the minister amounts to anything more than warm words of support.

Meanwhile in West Berkshire it is recorded that over 400 properties have stood vacant for over six months as two new schemes have been announced to bring them back into use.

West Berkshire Lead Councillor for Housing, Alan Law (Con, Basildon) said, "The creation of the two schemes highlights the Council's commitment to addressing the problems that empty properties cause and to taking a practical measure to increase the supply of affordable housing for local people."

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Update: A building on Bridge Street at the heart of Hungerford which stood derelict for more than 20 years has been one of the first to be the target of new legal powers.

For more information check out the Empty Homes Agrency.

Oranjepan says:
Clearly councils can find a way where there's a will, so the public must be asking why the issue remains unsolved.

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