East Suffolk Council is committed to reducing the number of long-term empty properties in the district as they are a wasted resource, often becoming a target for vandalism, arson, squatters, fly-tipping and other criminal behaviour.
As a result, the Council reviews properties which have stood empty for more than six months, identified through data from Council Tax, on an annual basis. Long-term properties, which have been empty for more than 2 years, but would provide good quality housing that would benefit the community, are priorities during these reviews.
The last review, which was carried out in October 2021, showed that the number of long-term empty properties in East Suffolk has fallen dramatically over the past 12 months, with a 23% decline in properties standing empty for more than 2 years and a 50% decline in properties standing empty for more than 6 months.
Some long-term empty properties may become part of East Suffolk Council’s housing stock to provide much-needed affordable housing, whilst also address regeneration, such as 87 The High Street in Lowestoft.
This was an empty home and retail unit which had stood empty within the Heritage Action Zone, in a very poor condition, for more than 6 years. The property was purchased by the Council and plans are currently being prepared to convert the whole building into flats which may be retained to provide homes for council tenants.
Other properties have been brought back into use in a similar way and yet more are now occupied via private sector leasing schemes through Registered Providers or private landlords.
Cllr Richard Kerry, East Suffolk Council’s cabinet member for Housing, said: “Leaving properties empty long-term is not just a waste of a building, it can also have a hugely negative impact on neighbours and the community, attracting anti-social behaviour, vandalism and fly-tipping.
“It remains a priority to tackle the issue as it is one of the best ways the Council can meet the need for good quality housing in East Suffolk, however, it is not always straight-forward as properties can become unoccupied for a number of, sometimes complex, reasons.
“We are doing all we can to work with, and support, owners of long-term empty properties to help them return these to positive use, offering advice and assistance on bringing them back into use, including grants of up to £15,000.
“If all other action fails, the Council would look to the use the range of powers available as a last result, including Compulsory Purchase Orders, to get a long-term empty property re-occupied.”
For more information on what help is available if you own a long-term empty property or to report a property which has stood empty for more than 6 months, go to www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/empty-properties/