Council defends record on bringing vacant properties back into use
Twenty-six homes in Waltham Forest have been sitting empty for a decade or more, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
Of 222 vacant properties in the borough, 34 have not been lived in for at least two years, the time after which local authorities can use legal powers to take control of them.
The figures were revealed as part of nationwide research by the Liberal Democrat Party that showed 60,000 homes in England and Wales had been empty for two years or more and 11,000 had been unoccupied for more than ten years.
It also showed that local authorities including Waltham Forest Council were failing to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) to take over properties vacant for at least two years. Nationally only 19 councils in England and Wales said they had used an EDMO in the past five years.
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner Bob Sullivan 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 across London.
“The government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and Waltham Forest needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.”
Councillor Khevyn Limbajee, cabinet member for housing, responded: “In the last year our empty property grant scheme has brought eleven empty properties up to the Decent Homes Standard, which were subsequently let to households on the council’s waiting list. We also have a system where residents can report properties left vacant for long periods so we can look at what we might be able do to turn it into a new home for people who need it.
“Using EDMOs is a complex and lengthy process. To secure an EDMO the local authority must show that a property has been empty for at least two years and has been vandalised or used for ‘anti-social purposes’. Councils must also demonstrate that the property is ‘causing a nuisance to the community’.”