A rundown house in Brighton is being bought by the council after standing empty for 32 years.
The property at 87 Chester Terrace, between Fiveways and Preston Park, is one of almost a thousand empty homes in Brighton and Hove.
The leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Bill Randall, described the situation as bizarre, adding: “It’s a horror story. This is a city with a housing crisis.”
A compulsory purchase order was obtained in the 1990s but the council needs to take legal steps to ratify this.
The owner was granted up to £55,000 to bring the property up to scratch nearly 20 years ago. He received £29,000 which was spent on improvements.
“This administration is absolutely committed to resolving the situation.
“None of this should detract from the tremendous success of our empty property team in recent years.
“They have brought 154 homes back into use in the past year alone and more than 1,000 over the last seven years.
“I find it bizarre that this case gone on for so long, and I also think it’s time we started standing up for the long-suffering neighbours of this property more.
“I was involved in setting up the Empty Homes Agency back in the 1990s, and I know how complex some of these cases can be.
“Above all this one illustrates just how difficult it can be for councils to take effective action when there is a complete lack of co-operation from the property’s owners and they consistently fail to deliver on their promises.
“Everyone would agree that it’s right and proper that owners should be given every last chance to bring their empty homes back into use before councils can make a compulsory purchase.
“But I think this is a case where the council has been too patient with the owners and given them the benefit of the doubt for too long.
“I find it astonishing that the owners haven’t at any stage simply decided to sell the property if they can’t afford the necessary renovation work, rather than leaving it empty for all this time without any benefit to them.”
The owner is Derek Burns although the mortgagee with possession is Christine Davies. Mr Burns has been reported as living locally as a tramp.
The council said that 985 properties in Brighton and Hove have been empty for more than six months.
Of these, the council owns 137 – or 14 per cent – with 848 – or 86 per cent – being in private sector ownership.
The council said: “This is a snapshot figure and we can expect at least half of these to be back in use within a year.”