Empty Homes Grant is “a huge help”

23 Sep 2019

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White and Julie Smith

A family home which has been empty for nearly three years is coming back onto the market next month thanks to a grant from West Suffolk Council.

Julie Smith said the council’s Empty Homes Grant has made a real difference in helping her and husband John renovate their three bed home in The Street, Worlington, ready to welcome new tenants.

This week is national Empty Homes Week and West Suffolk Council has revealed that in the past year 52 long term empty homes in the district have been bought back into use, while another 22 have been demolished to make way for new homes.

Homes are classed as being long term empty if no one has lived in them for six months or more and they are not being used as a second home. Although the council writes to all owners of long term empty properties its main focus is on those that have been empty for two or more years of which there are 250 across the district.

The reason it is so keen for owners to bring these homes back into use is that there is strong demand for all types of housing in West Suffolk.

The Empty Homes Grant is just one of the ways that the council can help bring homes back into use. It is available, subject to criteria, when a home has been empty for more than a year. In Julie’s case the grant paid for a new boiler, oil tank, windows and a back door.

“We bought the house 30 years ago and lived in it for the first 15 years before deciding to rent it out. The income is our pension pot but when our last tenants moved out in December 2016, we knew we needed to carry about some repairs. We’ve been trying to do a lot of the work ourselves as we didn’t have the spare money but that meant it was taking longer,” she said.

“The grant has been a huge help and has brought forward a lot of the work. We are really pleased and are looking forward to welcoming our new tenants early next month.”

Julie Smith shows Cllr Sara Mildmay-White some of the work she has had done using the Empty Homes Grant

A maximum of £20,000 is available through the grant. It is repayable if there is a change of ownership or if the property, once back in use, becomes empty again for three months or more.

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “There are many reasons why properties become long term empty. Some of these are emotional and some of them practical. We look to offer support where we can to encourage people to bring their empty homes back into use so they can become places where new families make their memories, while we also offer help to those who are struggling to meet the costs of certain repairs. As a final incentive we would remind owners that properties left unoccupied after two years are subject to a 200 per cent Council Tax charge. Our preference is always that owners work with us where needed, to bring their empty homes back into use and help meet some of the local housing need.”

Find out more about the grant at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/empty_houses/emptyhomesgrant.cfm

The council’s West Suffolk Lettings Partnership also offers a guaranteed rent scheme – more details are available at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/privatehousing/wslp.cfm

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