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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 10/09/2007

Summary & Purpose



[Wards Affected: All]

Summary and purpose:

It is considered good practice for local authorities to have an Empty Homes Strategy, which outlines the ways in which councils will deal with homes in both the private and public sector that are empty for long periods of time. A draft Empty Homes Strategy is attached to this report for the consideration of the Committee and to give members the opportunity to comment and revise the strategy before a further draft is presented to the Executive.

Environmental implications:

Empty homes can become an eyesore and health hazard. Bringing empty homes back into use can improve the look of an area.

Social/community implications:

Empty homes can attract vandalism and increase fear of crime; by bringing empty homes back into use therefore helps maintain a better quality street scene and reduce the risk of vandalism and associated anti-social behaviour. Bringing empty backs into use can ultimately require the Council to take a firm stance and possibly legal action against individual property-owners, some of whom may be elderly or vulnerable. Empty property-owners rights need to be balanced against the rights of the residents adjacent to the property and or local community who would benefit from the home being renovated and brought back into use.

E-Government implications:

There are none directly arising from this report

Resource and legal implications:

It is intended that most of the Empty Homes work will be managed within existing financial and staffing resources.


1. It is estimated that some 663,328 homes across England are standing empty (as at April 2006.) 290,224 of those homes are in the private sector and had been empty for 6 months or more.

2. Central Government requires all Local Authorities to annually report on the number of empty homes in their borough and the number of empty homes that are brought back into use by the Council.

3. It is considered timely to develop a new “Empty Homes Strategy”.

The Waverley Context

4. There are some 50,000 homes of all tenures in the Borough. Of these 1,757 were empty at 31st March 2007. Of that number, 1,047 had been empty for 6 months or more. This equates to 2.2 % of the total housing stock in Waverley standing empty for longer than 6 months, which is slightly higher than the Surrey average.

5. By comparison, within the Council’s own housing stock (5,012 at 31st March 2007) 99 homes were empty. 49 of these are awaiting demolition and the remainder either awaiting letting or having repairs prior to re-letting, or awaiting disposal. Of the Council’s housing stock, therefore, 1.98% was vacant on 31st March 2007; though if the 49 awaiting demolition were disregarded this figure falls to just under 1%.

6. There are comparatively very few problematic or seriously dilapidated empty homes in Waverley, with only an estimated 10-20 homes falling into such a category. However, with Waverley as an area where demand for housing is high and developable land is scare, any homes stood empty for long periods of time is a wasted resource.

7. Although previous work on empty homes has been effective in specific cases, the Council’s approach up until this point has been on a site-by-site basis rather than having a comprehensive, strategic approach. This strategy aims to address this by proposing a more comprehensive approach to tackling the issue of empty homes in the Borough.

8. The Strategy will have four key strands, in the form of:
Data Collection and analysis;
Promotion and Publicity;
Encouraging and assisting empty property owners; and ultimately
Enforcement. 9. The Action plan details the proposed actions and timescales.


10. The Strategy aims to achieve a more comprehensive approach to dealing with empty homes. The progress of the Strategy will be reviewed annually and the action plan amended to reflect new information and experience gained through implementation of the current action plan.

11. The document attached at Annexe 1 is a first draft of the Empty Homes Strategy and is ‘work in progress’. Members are invited to comment on the issue of empty homes generally and to comment on the draft strategy so that it can be amended and revised prior to it being formally considered by the Executive in due course.


It is recommended that the Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider the draft Empty Homes Strategy and make comments on it.

Background Papers

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D (5) of the Local Development Act 1972) relating to this report.


Name: Katy Taylor Telephone: 01483 523430

E-mail: ktaylor@waverley.gov.uk

comms\o&s2\2007-08\017 Empty Homes 10 Sept 07.doc