Oxford City Council has today released a statement calling for “owners to bring empty properties back into use” as part of National Empty Homes Week.
According to Action on Empty Homes, 9 out of 10 council areas across the country are seeing rises in empty properties, and 2020 was the fourth consecutive year of growth in this phenomenon nationally. This is something Oxford City Council attested to in their statement, noting that there are around 800 empty properties in Oxford alone, when properties exempt from council tax are taken into account.
The City Council also pointed out that in 2017 it had been granted a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for a house which had sat empty since 1989, after the death of its occupant. The property was renovated into “a lifetime home to a family on the housing register.”
In the last year, the City Council has worked with owners to renovate 35 empty homes in the city. However, Oxford City Council point out in the statement that: “The council’s legal powers to deal with empty homes are limited. Government guidance states that a CPO can only be made if there is a compelling case in the public interest.”
Therefore, the Council is backing Action on Empty Homes’ campaign to seek a “£200m fund and new powers for councils to bring empty homes back into use.”
Councillor Mike Rowley, cabinet member for affordable housing and housing the homeless, commented on the council’s support for the campaign. Rowley said: “We cannot afford empty homes in Oxford given the scarcity and cost of housing in our city. It’s vitally important that any empty home is brought back into use as quickly as possible.”
Rowley sought to strike a conciliatory tone with property-owners, adding: “Although we will look at using enforcement powers when all else fails, we would much prefer to come to agreements with owners or executors of estates to bring empty homes back into use”.
Residents wishing to act on this issue can “contact the council’s Empty Residential Property Officer on 01865 252280 or report it on the council website.”
This week, Action on Empty Homes is calling on the government to implement a national ‘Empty Homes Strategy’.
Cllr Rowley has been contacted for comment.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons