Hundreds of privately-owned properties in Wolverhampton that stood empty for years have been transformed into family homes thanks to the efforts of City of Wolverhampton Council.
Its Empty Property Strategy, launched in 2010, has seen more than 1,400 houses which had been left unoccupied – often in poor condition – brought back into use in the last seven years.
The council aims to ensure that rather than the properties becoming a blight on their neighbourhood, they are either sold to new homeowners or rented out to tenants.
Specialist housing improvement officers from the council’s Private Sector Housing Team have worked with the owners of properties left empty for a long period of time to encourage and support them to carry out any required works and get them occupied once again.
If necessary and as a last resort, the authority can use enforcement action to ensure this work takes place.
In November, the council extended a pilot programme that offers grants of up to £500 to encourage more owners of empty properties to act.
The grants will either help owners with legal/agent fees to sell their property or provide an incentive to rent it under the Private Sector Leasing (PSL) Scheme – a hassle-free property management service run in association with Wolverhampton Homes.
Cllr Peter Bilson, deputy leader and cabinet member for city assets and housing, said: “Not only is it providing more affordable housing to people in Wolverhampton, but it is also improving the city and helping boost the local economy.
“The properties we have become involved with have often stood empty for many years and, as a result, the condition of them has often deteriorated dramatically.
“This strategy is helping to put these houses back on the market – either to sell or rent – and this in turn is having a positive effect in the areas they are in.
“In addition, it means landlords are once again seeing rental income come in, the value of their properties is increasing and local shops and services are benefiting from new residents occupying the houses – providing a significant boost to the economy.
“This is the equivalent of us building hundreds of new houses across the city and we will continue to focus our efforts on empty houses in the City of Wolverhampton.”
The strategy links in with the council’s wider commitment to enhance the private rented sector in the city through its Rent with Confidence five-star rating scheme.