Empty Homes Week 2021: Cllr Eleanor Southwood on Brent's work
Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent Council
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Properties standing empty in our borough are a blight on the local area, attracting anti-social behaviour, illegal dumping of rubbish and vermin. Worse still, they represent fewer homes for families in Brent.
That’s why reducing the number of empty properties in Brent is a priority. National Empty Homes Week is from February 15 to 21 and I want to take the opportunity to share what Brent’s Labour-run council has achieved and remind you what you can do to help.
This financial year, we turned 28 vacant properties into homes for families who would otherwise have been homeless. Our empty property grants helped the property owners create two, three and four-bedroom homes.
Each property was refurbished to the Decent Homes Standard in recognition of our commitment to good quality housing. Grants can be used for a host of improvements, including new central heating, windows and new kitchens and bathrooms.
By April this year, our empty property team will have given out grants to refurbish at least 29 more properties for families in housing need and a further 63 empty properties will have been brought back into use without our financial assistance.
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Nobody benefits from neglected properties. Neighbours often have to put up with vandalism and squatters, anti-social behaviour and pests. For property owners, council tax increases to 200 per cent if a home is left empty for more than two years.
Our dedicated team works hard with landlords to bring properties back into use but the council also has legal powers to buy vacant homes. Last year, for example, we bought a property in Kenton that had stood empty for many years, causing problems for the neighbourhood.
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We’ve seen some great examples of landlords who have benefited from the assistance on offer and been able to create wonderful new homes. Recently, a four-year project in Willesden came to fruition, which has created 13 state-of-the-art houses out of an empty warehouse in Narayan Mews.
The pandemic has reminded us all how important it is to have a safe and comfortable home. Our team is keen to hear from you if you are an owner of an empty property in Brent, or if you believe a property on your street has fallen out of use.
Contact our empty property team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or telephone 020 8937 2384 and choose option one, then option four.