Chichester District Council helps bring empty homes back into use

With National Empty Homes Week starting on Monday 4 March, Chichester District Council is urging owners of empty properties to find out how the council can help bring these much-needed homes back into use.

Empty Homes Week puts the spotlight on the important work that is being done to reduce the number of homes that have been empty for six months or longer. To mark the week, the council is reminding people about the wide range of support that is currently available to turn unused properties into valuable homes, including grant funding and a reduced VAT rate on renovation materials.

“While the percentage of long-term empty properties in the Chichester District is relatively low (at 0.3%) in comparison to many other areas of the country, each one represents a potential new home for someone,” says Councillor David Betts, Cabinet Member for Housing, and Revenues and Benefits at Chichester District Council.

“There can be lots of reasons why a property is left empty. Although many homes routinely become unoccupied for a short time between tenants or owners, others can remain empty for longer. These are the properties that we’re keen to see put back into use as potential homes for private buyers or tenants; families threatened with homelessness or someone that needs support; or as a step onto the ladder for key workers.

“Empty homes can easily fall into disrepair or attract acts of vandalism, and so as well as helping to enhance local neighbourhoods through maintaining property values and providing increased housing options for local residents, bringing empty homes back into use can also help avoid anti-social behaviour and improve the sense of pride in a local neighbourhood.

“Making an empty house a home again has huge benefits to the owner too — from reducing costs associated with regular bills, such as council tax, and deterioration in property value; to opening up opportunities to gain a regular rental income from letting or a lump sum from selling the property. However, we understand the challenges people face in financing and renovating this type of project, and so we’re keen to promote the wide range of support that’s available.”

As part of the council’s Empty Homes Assistance scheme, funding is available to help give properties that have been vacant for more than a year a new lease of life. Owners can access up to £10,000 of funding, which would only need to be repaid if the property was sold within 10 years. People can find out more and apply for this support, at: www.chichester.gov.uk/housingfinancialassistance#accreditation

If people are looking to refurbish a property that has been empty for two years or more, then they can buy most renovation materials at a reduced VAT rate of 5%. To access this, they can request a letter from the council’s Revenues and Benefits team by emailing: taxation@chichester.gov.uk.

David adds: “I would encourage empty homeowners to visit our website for more information about these schemes, along with additional advice on bringing empty properties back into use, at: www.chichester.gov.uk/emptyhomes. You can also contact our Housing Standards team for support by emailing: housingstandards@chichester.gov.uk or calling: 01243 534734.”

The council is also encouraging residents to let them know about any homes that they believe have been empty for over six months. People can do this online at: www.chichester.gov.uk/article/35746/Report-a-housing-condition-problem or email the council’s Housing Standards team directly at: housingstandards@chichester.gov.uk.

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