Empty Homes and New Homes Bonus
- In October 2013, there were 7,762 empty homes in Somerset. At 3.2% of the total number of homes, this proportion was marginally above the regional and national averages.
- Over 90% of these empty homes were in the private sector and 2,291 had been empty for more than six months (long-term).
- In the year to October 2013 there has been a net change in Somerset of 640 long-term homes brought back into use,
In response to housing shortages, the Government has outlined that tackling empty homes would play an important role in increasing supply utilising crucial existing stock. Empty properties are crucial to health & wellbeing as they are:
A wasted housing resource that can help in reducing the waiting time on the housing waiting list and provide affordable housing
Unsafe as they are an opportunistic place for squatters, vandals, burglars and anti-social behaviour
A blight on the neighbourhood as empty homes diminishes the look and feel of the area, including a resident’s perception on safety
The Government’s Empty Homes initiative has also been provided financial backing through the New Homes Bonus scheme. This scheme provides additional funding or a 'bonus' for new homes by 'match funding' the additional Council Tax raised for both empty homes brought back into use and new homes, with an additional amount for affordable homes, for the following six years. The 2012-13 allocations include the first affordable homes premium whereby the development of each additional affordable home attracts an enhancement of a flat rate £350 per annum.
In response, all 5 Districts are now concentrating their efforts in bringing back long term empty properties (that is, those empty for 6 months or more). The teams aim to:
- Identify and make contact with owners
- Support owners, interested parties and the community to ensure properties are brought back into use
Schemes that have been created to help both the owner and the community are:
- Guidance and support to property owners with up to date information, options and advice on letting
- Landlord Accreditation scheme
- Low interest loans
- Bond Guarantee schemes
- Management Service
- Free advertising on Homefinder Somerset
- Referral to agencies
When the initiative began, there were approximately 5,000 long term empty homes (over 6 months) across Somerset. Please note that the figures of empty homes brought back into use below is a net figure, based on either the deficit or increase of empty homes year on year. A positive figure represents a net increase in long-term empty homes brought back into use. The figures for the period October 2012- October 2013 are:
|| South Somerset
A review of the Council Tax database, identifying erroneously classified empty homes, has led to the significant number achieved by South Somerset. There has also been the engagement of Somerset Care & Repair (a Home Improvement Agency, not for profit and locally based organisation) in both Mendip and South Somerset that has seen an encouraging rise in empty homes brought back into use. The high uptake is related to the benefits Somerset Care & Repair can offer such as:
- Loan of the funding for the works in return for a rent free period
- Organise and oversee the works
- Lease and manage the property brought back into use
- Rent will be paid (post rent free period)
- Return of the property to owner in a saleable condition at the end of the lease
Please also see the Housing Improvements section.