Owners of empty homes urged to take action and seek help

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Tens of thousands of homes in Yorkshire are lying empty the latest figures have revealed as one local authority yesterday unveiled its plans to tackle the problem which blights communities.

Often empty homes are left rundown and boarded up for a number of years and can become a magnet for anti-social behaviour and drug users. But bringing them back into use helps to ease a nationwide housing shortage and rejuvenates communities.

Yesterday details of a plan to tackle the issue in the Scarborough area and provide much needed homes in the district was unveiled - there are around 650 homes, which have been standing empty for over six months within the borough.

The latest figures from charity Empty Homes shows that in 2013 there were 81,322 empty homes in the Yorkshire and Humber region, with 28,997 of those classed as being empty for a long period. That was an improvement on the 88,910 vacant and 32,901 long term empty in 2012 but David Ireland, chief executive of Empty Homes, while welcoming the improvement said more needed to be done.

“Local authorities and Government will need to work hard to ensure the fantastic progress seen this year is maintained,” he said.

In 2013 only the South East and North West had higher totals than Yorkshire, according to the figures from Empty Homes. Areas which saw a big drop in 2013 included Leeds where numbers fell by 1,454.

The issue is one faced by authorities across the region with cities such as Bradford and Doncaster among those also making concerted efforts to tackle the problem.

Yesterday Scarborough Borough Council said it has signed up for a nationwide scheme which will see it working with the charity Empty Homes, central Government and Ecology Building Society, and which offers loans of up to £15,000 to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into use.

Often owners of empty homes cannot get funds to bring the properties back into use, creating a vicious cycle of decline.

The National Empty Homes Loan Fund (NEHLF), set up with a £3m grant from the Government, will allow owners to access secured loans at a fixed five per cent interest rate and renovate the properties.

It is hoped the scheme, administered by Ecology Building Society, a specialist mortgage lender that supports sustainable communities, will provide cash for hundreds of properties and is available to individuals aged 18 and over who own a property that has been empty for over six months.

Coun Bill Chatt, Scarborough’s cabinet member for public health and housing said: “We know that many empty properties exist within our area because owners simply do not have the money that is required to bring them back up to a habitable standard.

“This initiative will make a difference in tackling this problem, and we are more than happy to become members of the scheme.”

Mr Ireland added: “We hope the fund will enable hundreds of empty homes to be brought back up to standard and back into the housing stock.”

Owners in the Scarborough area can apply for loans by contacting the local authority. For further information call 01723 383541 or email: privatesectorhousing@scarborough.gov.uk