Number of empty homes in Wellingborough halved

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The number of abandoned homes in Wellingborough has halved over the past 18 months following a council crackdown.

There were 423 empty properties in the borough in April 2012, but the number had fallen to 212 by September this year and is continuing to fall.

Wellingborough Council has recently stepped up its efforts to bring houses back into use, including regular meetings with property owners, working with landlords to help find tenants, putting owners in touch with potential buyers, and offering grants for renovation work.

From last April, the council also introduced a additional 50 per cent council tax charge on properties which had been unoccupied for more than two years.

In a number of cases, the council has pursued compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) of the abandoned homes.

The first three CPOs, for houses in Weavers Road, Harrowden Road and Ash Close, Irchester, have been successful with two shortly to be sold at auction and one currently under renovation.

Three more CPOs are being considered by the Secretary of State at the moment, and a further six will be recommended if there isn’t significant progress towards renovation and reoccupation by the beginning of next year.

Cllr Peter Morrall, chairman of the council’s community committee, said: “Compulsory purchase is a last resort, and throughout every stage of the CPO process we continue to work with the owners to see if it can be avoided.

“In four recent cases, starting the CPO process has given the owners the necessary push to either renovate the property themselves, or to take advantage of a grant, and three of these houses are now occupied.

“Like many other areas, our borough needs more housing.

“We are committed to doing what we can to get empty and abandoned homes reoccupied.

“A lot of these empty properties are also in a terrible state - they are neglected, derelict and unsafe, with holes in their roofs, boarded up windows and overgrown gardens.

“They attract squatters and antisocial behaviour and it’s not fair on the neighbours to live near them.

“The amount of long-term empty properties has been steadily declining in the borough since 2008, but since we stepped up our crackdown a couple of years ago the numbers have fallen more sharply.

“We’re delighted that it’s half what it was just 18 months ago, and we will keep going in our efforts to bring empty properties back into use to improve our neighbourhoods and provide much-needed housing.”