Hastings Borough Council published its Empty Homes Strategy in 2003, when there were over 2000 homes standing empty for six months or more. Today, that figure stands at 492; however, with up to 100 properties a month being identified as empty, the Council regularly contacts owners to offer assistance and to warn them of the consequences of allowing homes to remain empty for too long. Council tax bills are increased to a premium rate of an added 50% once a property is left empty for two years.
Councillor Andy Batsford, lead member for housing said, “The council works in partnership with housing associations and bids for external funding to reduce the number of empty homes on the register. With homeless levels spiralling we will first encourage owners of empty homes to return their property to use, but then enforce where necessary because every empty home has the potential to help fulfil the town’s urgent need for good quality, affordable housing.
“If owners leave their homes empty for longer than two years the council will consider the use of compulsory purchase. Since 2011, the council have helped bring 621 of these”two year empty homes” back into use. Only six properties were compulsory purchased.”
Hastings Borough Council can offer advice and any financial assistance such as interest relief on loan repayment.
The council has worked in partnership with housing associations and the YMCA to identify and refurbish empty homes. Last year Hastings Borough Council and Optivo won the 2016 National Home Improvement Council (NHIC) award for Home Improvements with Community Benefit and the George Plucknett Award, chosen from all winners and finalists for successfully meeting the objectives of the NHIC
Hastings Borough Council has consistently achieved its annual target to bringing 70 homes back into use that were empty for over two years.