Council reaffirms commitment to tackle empty homes

Braintree District Council’s Cabinet has agreed to implement a new policy to reduce the number of empty homes across the district.

The policy will set out the measures that Braintree District Council will utilise to bring empty properties back into use, focussing on privately owned homes that are long term empty that have been empty for at least six months, are unoccupied and unfurnished (and are not exempt) as well as second homes and furnished empties. 

Empty homes are a national issue and within the Braintree District, there are 2,647 empty homes*, 1,016 of which have been empty for six months or longer. The aim is to begin tackling the long-term empty homes to bring them back into use and discourage owners from leaving them empty.

This comes after 80% of respondents in the council’s Healthy Housing Strategy consultation last year rated reducing the number of empty properties in the district by exploring options to bring them back into use as important to them.

Braintree District Council’s dedicated Empty Homes Officer will provide advice and assistance to those wishing to bring empty homes back into use where possible, encouraging empty property owners to participate in proactive voluntary engagement. Appropriate enforcement action to return empty properties to use will be considered. 

The council also charges 100% council tax on properties from the day a property becomes empty to bring homes into use. A proposal as part of the council’s budget also looks to change its 100% empty property premium for certain empty properties from two years to one year starting from 1st April 2024, as well as introducing a 100% premium on second homes, subject to certain exemptions, from 1st April 2025.

Councillor Lynette Bowers-Flint, Cabinet Member for Housing, Health and Wellbeing at Braintree District Council, said: “Every empty home removes a property from the housing market and with it the chance for those on housing register to be housed, first time buyers to purchase or those looking to progress on the property ladder. We want to make sure we are using every tool we can to meet the housing needs of our residents and this policy will support us in our efforts to reduce the number of privately owned empty homes, increase housing supply and encourage inward investment into the district.”

The policy will now be prepared by Braintree District Council, which will be published on its website when finalised. 

Published: 26th January 2024