Almost 2,000 homes have been brought back into use in Brighton and Hove since 2001, the council’s housing chief said yesterday (Monday 1 December).
He said that the council’s Empty Property Team had brought 1,900 privately owned homes back into use in the past 13 years.
In the past financial year alone 169 had been returned to use, beating recent averages of 150 a year.
The work was part of the many efforts being undertaken to tackle the housing crisis in Brighton and Hove, Councillor Randall said.
National Empty Homes Week is a national awareness event organised annually by the Empty Homes Agency, which is a campaigning charity dedicated to returning empty homes to use.
The council’s empty homes service was set up in the 1990s and at the time was one of the first in the country.
As well as providing much-needed homes across different housing tenures – private sale and rent and council leasing – its performance over the past four years has netted the council extra income of £1.5 million.
This is based on the payment of the new homes bonus for empty properties returned to use.
Councillor Randall said that empty properties could blight a neighbourhood and cause distress for those living near by as well as being a wasted resource in a city that desperately needed more housing.
New initiatives planned include an update of the Empty Property Action Plan, setting out how and why the council takes action on empty properties.
The council also plans to create a clearer enforcement protocol outlining action that will be taken to ensure properties are improved and returned to use when negotiation has failed.
Councillor Randall, who chairs the council’s Housing Committee, said: “Our Empty Property Team works successfully with the owners of empty properties every day with great results and we want to do more.
“We are proud to be associated with National Empty Homes Week and are happy to sign up to the Empty Homes Agency ‘pledge’ confirming our commitment to dealing with empty properties and seeing that they are returned to use as homes.
“The fact is that demand massively outstrips supply for housing in Brighton and Hove.
“Housing that stands around empty for long periods of time is unacceptable, attracts anti-social behaviour such as flytipping and brings the local community down.
“We understand that there are often complex reasons why a home is empty and try to avoid penalising those who have genuine reasons so we try to work with owners to bring properties back to use rather than taking enforcement action.”
As a last resort, he said, the team would of course take enforcement action but it preferred to work through negotiation.