More than 100 empty homes in Central Bedfordshire revitalised last year - including one that had been empty for 20 years

A boarded up house. (Photo by David Potter/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)A boarded up house. (Photo by David Potter/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)
A boarded up house. (Photo by David Potter/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images)
An average of 80 empty properties a year have been rejuvenated over the last decade

A property which was empty for 20 years was among 100 revived by housing department officers at Central Bedfordshire Council during the last financial year, a meeting heard.

Reasons for housing being left empty include financial uncertainty, the premises being viewed as an asset rather than a home, death and probate delays, or government policy and funding.

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New homes can be registered as empty and are liable for council tax on completion, but be recorded as vacant if they remain unoccupied.

An average of 80 empty properties a year have been rejuvenated by CBC during the last decade, including 816 between 2011/12 and 2020/21.

A progress update was reported to the local authority’s social care, health and housing overview and scrutiny committee by Independent Biggleswade West councillor Steve Watkins.

“The empty homes team continued to build on the achievements of previous years during 2023/24 by bringing a further 100 vacant properties back into use,” explained executive member for business, housing and public assets councillor Watkins.

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“They also tackled numerous issues relating to this subject, such as unauthorised access, rodent infestations and statutory nuisance. The vast majority of this was completed through support, health guidance and encouragement.

“But enforcement action was taken where this proved unsuccessful, including our second compulsory purchase order, on a property which had been empty for 20 years, and a tenth empty dwelling management order (EDMO).

“These orders enable CBC to manage the property for a period of seven years, recovering the renovation costs from the rental income. Central Bedfordshire is one of only a few councils in the country using them.

“A further eight cases suitable for EDMOs will be progressed by the empty homes team, during the next financial year, while a significant number of home loan assistance applications have been received after some promotional work.

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“The team will be aiming to drive down the overall number of empty homes, as this has a financial benefit to the council because of the new homes bonus monies received from central government for each reduction in this general figure.

“So I’ve got to sing the team’s praises,” he added. “They’re a delight to work with and completely dedicated to the housing service and the residents who fall under their care.”

Liberal Democrat Leighton Linslade South councillor Emma Holland-Lindsay, who chairs the committee, said: “I echo that positive feedback. There are some really good stories to tell there.”

Most long-term vacant properties are a real blight on the neighbourhood, while some cause damage to neighbouring homes, a CBC meeting was told in January 2022.

In one case, the council had to carry our repairs to protect a neighbouring house and then make an EDMO.