More than 300 homes left empty for two years
Labour council rejects claim it is not doing enough to get properties back into use
11 January, 2018 — By Richard Osley
THE Town Hall has been accused of not doing enough to put empty homes back into use amid fears over rising homelessness.
Camden has been urged to make used of so-called EDMOs – or Empty Dwelling Management Orders – to take control of properties that have been left vacant for more than two years.
Figures released to Liberal Democrat researchers showed 306 homes across the borough have not been lived in for this length of time. Labour council chiefs say the statistics only show a “snapshot”of Camden’s housing profile and do not tell the whole story, but their Lib Dem rivals insist more could have been done to bring empty homes back into use.
Stephen Crosher, who stood for the Lib Dems in Holborn and St Pancras at last year’s general election, said: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening, and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty. These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it.”
He added: “The Mayor needs to press London councils to use the powers available to them and the government needs urgently review the current system which is clearly not working. Camden Council needs to act to bring empty homes back into use.”
Eight-hundred-and-eighty-seven homes in Camden are currently considered to have been left empty for six months.
Senior Labour councillors were previously at loggerheads with the government over their hopes to charge double council tax on empty properties, but the increased rate was capped at Whitehall to 150 per cent. Part of their concern had been that properties were being bought up as rarely used second homes, risking a “ghost town” effect for local communities.
Labour housing chief Councillor Meric Apak said: “We encourage a constructive dialogue with owners, offer advice, and support where we can in order to get properties occupied. We do initiate enforcement action where there is slow progress, and find that this approach often encourages voluntary progress. As well as this we charge 150 per cent council tax as a deterrent to intentionally keeping a property empty.”
He added: “In the last three years, we have brought back 294 properties into use without the need to resort to enforcement. Of these, 65 properties have been used to house people in priority need.”