Houses stand empty as people hunt for homes

ALMOST 2,000 homes are standing empty in Northumberland at a time when many people are struggling to find affordable properties.

Officers at Northumberland County Council are trying to reduce this number and they managed to get 51 vacant houses and flats owned by private landlords back into use last year.

The authority hopes to add a further 85 this year.

At present, ten owners of empty homes are being offered up to £7,500 each to get people living in their properties.

They must be available for three years to homeless households to qualify for the pay-outs.

So far, six homes in urban and rural parts of the county have signed up for the initiative and the first is expected to be occupied next month.

Council tax figures from last April indicate that 2,351 homes in the county had been standing empty long-term, but a meeting of the South East Area Committee was told that the current figure is about 1,750.

Coun Barrie Crowther noted there were three wards with more than 270 empty properties among them.

“We should employ someone to work in those three areas and not spread themselves out through the county,” he said.

Under the Government’s new homes bonus, the council will be given £350 every time a property empty for six months or longer is brought back into use.

The authority can also force owners to act by taking them to a residential property tribunal to seek an empty dwelling management order.

After securing an order, it can then rent out the house itself, serve notice for repairs to be carried out, force the owner to sell the property or even undertake a compulsory purchase order if all else fails.