Turn derelict empty properties into homes, call to council

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

3 months ago

News Politics

Dilapidated buildings should be bought up so that they can be renovated and become part of Powys County Council’s housing stock, a councillor has suggested.

At a meeting of the Audit and Governance committee on Friday, September 30, members went through the council’s Strategic Risk Register as it stood at the end of June.

Some risks were to be downgraded and taken off the council’s most important register and handed back to departmental level.

But an item that was escalated up to the main council register comes from the Housing Service.

The service has escalated a risk that they will be:  “Unable to provide or enable the development of enough additional homes to fulfil housing market demand.”

They claim that the consequence of this risk is that if the total number of homes in Powys does not increase there will be: “challenges recruiting and retaining staff, ” and that diminished supply would see an increase in demand for the council’s “homelessness services.”

To address the issue and reduce the risk, the Housing Services suggest changes to policy and processes that: “encourage and support the re-purposing of existing commercial, retail buildings and sites into homes.”

Newtown West County Councillor Peter Lewington told the committee that there are:

“several long-standing derelict properties that are being left to decay and rot” in his ward.

“They are detrimental visually for the neighbourhood and the people that live next door to these properties.

“I just wondered – is there any opportunities to compulsory purchase these properties and turn them into homes.”

CPO no-go

Head of finance, Jane Thomas said:

“Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) is not something we can use to do what you are asking for.

“There has to be a specific purpose and need – it’s quite regulated in terms of what we are allowed to CPO.

“We are not able to just turn properties into housing.”

Ms Thomas explained that a higher rate of council tax premium could be charged to the owners of long-standing empty properties.

In Powys this is 50 per cent extra on top of the Council Tax bill.

Ms Thomas said: 

“That’s partly to get people to consider the use of their properties and get them into housing occupation where possible.

“Unless they are council properties, we are very limited in what we can do ourselves.”

Escalation of the risk to the main council register had been agreed by the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet when it was discussed at a meeting back in July.

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