Cash incentives to get Welwyn Hatfield’s empty homes back into use

RESIDENTS could be given discounts on their council tax if they help bring empty properties back into use.

The Coalition Government is offering to match council tax as an incentive for local authorities to bring empty homes back into use.

This cash could then be spent how the council wished, such as offering tax discounts to residents who come forward and point out which homes stood derelict.

However, the scheme might not be used to its full potential in Welwyn Hatfield.

As previously reported in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, the borough has the lowest number of empty homes in the East of England.

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Statistics quoted, which date to October 2009, revealed there were just 496 unoccupied properties in Welwyn Hatfield – out of a total of 72,572 in the entire region.

A spokeswoman for Welwyn Hatfield Council this week said its own figures painted an even rosier picture.

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She said: “While there are very few long-term empty homes in the borough – 211 at the last count in November 2010 – we are committed to tackling empty homes where we can.

“On a regular basis we carry out an exercise to see if the number of empty properties can be reduced.

“We use council tax records to identify properties which have been empty for more than six months and make enquiries to find out why they are vacant.

“In some cases there are valid reasons, such as development or renovation.”

The spokeswoman said where there was no legitimate reason for a property standing empty, council officers would offer advice to owners on how they could bring the home back into use and to a certain housing standard.

She added the borough’s council tax charging policy was also set to change, in April.

“We will charge 100 per cent council tax on long-term empty properties – where previously we charged 50 per cent after six months. As well as generating additional income for the council, this will encourage owners to occupy or have occupants in their property.”

Communities minister Andrew Stunell said: “Long-term empty properties easily fall into disrepair, and attract the squatters, vandalism and anti-social behaviour that bring down our local neighbourhoods.”

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