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Empty Homes

Volume 542: debated on Monday 12 March 2012

Last week we announced £70 million of funding that will bring more than 5,600 homes back into use as affordable housing. That is part of our wider strategy for bringing empty homes back into use, which was set out in the Government’s housing strategy for England last autumn.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. The housing department of Waveney district council is doing great work with limited resources, working with the private sector to bring empty homes back into occupation. Will my hon. Friend meet the department and me to find out more about that scheme with a view to its being rolled out across the country?

According to the reports from Waveney district council to the Department, it currently has 983 long-term empty homes, so it certainly has work to do. I would be delighted to meet council representatives in due course to see what they are doing. I encourage every local authority to take full advantage of the new homes bonus that is available for bringing empty homes back into use and of the funding streams of £70 million and a further £50 million that we have announced, details of which will be announced shortly.

Although I welcome the £120 million that my hon. Friend has just mentioned, he will know that there are 10,000 empty properties in Cornwall, 40% of which have been empty for more than six months. Will he meet me and a representative of Cornwall council to make sure that local and national Government can work together to tackle this scandal in Cornwall?

It looks as though I am in for a few journeys to different corners of the country. I would be delighted to go to Cornwall—or for the hon. Gentleman to bring representatives here. Cornwall has 3,800 long-term empty homes and I very much hope that Cornwall council will take advantage of the incentives that we are offering and that we propose to offer through the empty homes premium.

Your Homes Newcastle tells me that of the 4,000 properties standing empty across the city, 99% are in the private sector. Private landlords often prefer to let them stand empty rather than let them to local families at lower rates than they have demanded from students. Constituents raise this with me all the time; how do I explain to them why the Government have decided to extend to two years the period before which local authorities can take action?

The system for empty dwellings management orders remains in place and they can be brought into effect after two years, but there has been limited use of them so far. However, there are other incentives and penalties that we believe will be more effective more quickly. There is certainly an incentive for local authorities to work hard to bring empty homes into use because they will get a new homes bonus for that. If the consultation we are carrying out moves ahead in the right direction, the empty homes premium will be a strong incentive for home owners to bring their homes into use rather than paying that premium.