Welsh housing associations could be piloting ‘best practice’ for empty properties if Welsh Government/ Llywodraeth Cymru agrees to recommendations resulting from a committee inquiry.
Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru has been given a year to work with Welsh councils on a national action plan for empty properties that sets priorities and targets.
A report from the Senedd Equality, Communities and Local Government committee says such an action plan should be published by October 2020.
The committee has released a report outlining recommendations from its inquiry into empty homes in Wales – of which there are an estimated 27,000 in the private sector alone that have been empty for more than six months.
And the committee sees scope for the Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru to work with the housing association sector to better understand the projects it has in place to return empty properties to use as affordable housing.
Findings should be shared as examples of good practice with other social landlords with Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru considering the potential for similar schemes to be rolled-out across Wales and, where necessary, allocate resources to enable this to happen, the report says.
Matthew Kennedy, Policy & Public Affairs Manager with CIH Cymru, said the Committee’s conclusions cut across the need for better data, funding, support for local authorities, acting on what works and engaging with communities to address empty homes.
“All areas deserving of greater exploration and we are fully behind seeing these recommendations realised in reality,” he said.
Along with the action plan and housing association pilots, the report recommends Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru, emphasises the importance of community based approaches for dealing with empty properties in its work with councils and other partners.
Other key recommendations include:
- Welsh Government/ Llywodraeth Cymru works with the WLGA to update public accountability measures over bringing back into use properties that have been empty for 12 months rather than the current 6 months
- Welsh Government/ Llywodraeth Cymru working with WLGA and the Valuation Office Agency to develop a method of gathering data on empty properties which is not solely reliant on the council tax valuation list
- Welsh Government/Llywodraeth Cymru, WLGA and councils explore and identify the most effective way of establishing a regional or national source of legal expertise for empty property teams to access – including a date for the implementation of this in the action plan
- A review of the current statutory enforcement powers available to councils to tackle empty properties and assess how these could be used more effectively, consolidated, simpified or extended
- Regularly reviews of support provided for schemes that offer financial assistance to owners of empty properties
- Clarification of the legal position around councils sharing information relating to empty properties and provide guidance
- Welsh Government/ Llywodraeth Cymru exploring the possibility of ring-fencing revenue collected by councils through the council tax premium on empty homes, to be used specifically for housing purposes