Call for lost causes

I’m looking to hear from Empty Homes Officer and others dealing with problem long term empty homes about their lost causes cases.  The ones where you’ve made every effort to contact, coax and cajole owners into action – without success. 

Specifically I’m looking for examples where councils feel like they have exhausted every option at their disposal and the property is seen as causing a detrimental effect on the area, whether that by concerns for neighbour or community safety, or just because it is an eyesore bringing down the perception of the area. 

As most of you will know I’m keen to see an enforcement tool that can be used effectively by practitioners to bring empty homes back into use.  So far efforts to get our proposed ‘Housing Re-use Power’ adopted have been unsuccessful.  At our recent Scottish Empty Homes Conference we had Professor David Adams form the Land Reform Review Group along to outline their proposed Compulsory Sale Order Power for councils.  The Review Group have proposed this power for vacant and derelict land, allowing councils to place it up for auction if nothing is done with it in 3 years.  If this were widened to include vacant and derelict property I think it has mileage to achieve a lot of what we need from a power -  something with the potential to affect a change of ownership (as we know it is the owners who are stuck rather than the properties 9 times out of ten), at a low cost to the council and used only as a last resort.  There would be a lot of discussion to be had about the details of how such a power would work, but the basic principles seem very close to the power we have been calling for.

In order to attempt to make a case for this though we need a body of examples of where existing methods of working and enforcement powers haven’t achieved a re-occupation and where something like a Compulsory Sale Order would.  That is where I need to turn to you to fill in the gaps.

If you have reached the end of your tether with an empty homes case and you think a new enforcement power would help I want to know:

  1. The story of the case in a nutshell – how long has it been empty, why is it of particular concern, what else has been tried and failed.
  2. Has enforcement been tried?  Have you considered Compulsory Purchase?  If not, why not?
  3. Would a compulsory sale order power help?  Why or why not?

I am hoping to compile a range of examples from across Scotland and use them to illustrate our call for this new power.  If you think you have an example to add to this document please send it to me:  kristen_hubert@shelter.org.uk

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