Powers to help councils bring empty homes back into use have been failing
According to figures obtained by Green party MEP, Keith Taylor, powers designed to help English councils bring empty homes back into use were used just 17 times last year.
Empty dwelling management orders, also known as Edmos, were introduced by the Labour government to make it easier for local governments to take possession of properties that had fallen into disuse. These orders allow a council to take temporary ownership of an empty home to work alongside the owner to improve the property to a habitable standard.
However, councils have said that Edmos are too complex to use and as such only 17 homes were brought back to use through the scheme during 2014.
The latest government figures show that more than 600,000 homes lie empty in England. Councils are using powers such as council tax charges and compulsory orders to help to bring them back into use rather than the “ineffective” Edmos.
In London, where the housing crisis is at its most acute, just one Edmo was made in 2014. In the north of England, councils have made 15, and the remaining one was in the east of England.
“It’s totally scandalous to have thousands of homeless people sleeping rough when there are nearly a million empty houses” said Taylor, who obtained the latest figures while research a report on the housing crisis which is due in March.
“Bringing empty properties back into use is a quick win. Today’s shocking figures highlight government failures to get to grips with the issue of empty homes, and clearly illustrates that the Edmo system is failing.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils were taking a number of approaches to bring homes back into use. Peter Box, the LGA’s housing spokesman, said “This includes providing advice and information, grants and loans and levying an empty homes premium through council tax,”
“Councils work hard to address the issue of long-term empty homes in their local areas. As the majority of these properties are privately owned, this means also working with voluntary groups, private owners and government bodies to bring properties back into use. This includes providing advice and information, grants and loans and levying an empty homes premium through council tax.
“In some cases encouragement by itself will not be enough. However, the existing powers open to councils are complex and difficult to use. The government should simplify existing powers to support local authorities to bring empty properties back into use.”
Brandon Lewi, the housing minister, said Edmos were “an ineffective and unpopular policy of the last administration, which undermined civil liberties and which simply didn’t work”.
Lewis said the Conservatives had “put in tighter checks and balances to prevent their abuse”. He added: “We have cut the number of the empty homes by a third through other more workable measures, and I hope the number will continue to fall. The fact that there have been so few orders is a sign that the original policy was fundamentally flawed.”
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