New research by the Liberal Democrats has discovered that 168 homes in Swansea have been sitting empty for ten years or more. These are included in the total of 462 homes that have been left unused for five years, and the 1033 homes empty for two years or more.
The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that across England and Wales there are over 11,000 homes that have stood empty for more than a decade, despite the shortage of affordable housing and a growing homelessness problem. Local Welsh Liberal Democrat Councillor and former Assembly Member, Peter Black believes that this growing waste of valuable homes underlines the need for the Welsh Government to give councils more powers to deal with the problem.
“Swansea,” he said, “is actually one of the better authorities. They have an active department dealing with empty properties, have brought 358 back into use and have also made use of the Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) tool which is designed for that purpose. The problem is that EDMOs are complex to use, require huge amounts of bureaucracy and are not suitable in most cases.
“As a result of pressure that I exerted when I was an Assembly Member, Welsh Ministers require most councils in Wales to have an empty homes strategy and officers designated to deal with this problem. Councils here can now impose larger council tax bills on empty homes to punish owners who neglect their property and to compensate communities for the blight that owners are imposing on the local community. And grants have been available to help bring these homes back into use.
“What is missing is a national strategy, which gives Welsh Councils more power to force owners to act to bring empty homes back into use, and which cuts down on the bureaucracy involved when an officer feels it is necessary to intervene and take over the property to meet local housing need. The Welsh Government needs to act to urgently correct this omission.
“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.”