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Grant can help to revive West Suffolk's empty homes

A council has revealed there are 250 homes in West Suffolk which have stood empty for two years or more and has urged owners of the properties to work with the authority.

The authority says that in the past year 52 long term empty homes have been brought back into use, while another 22 have been demolished to make way for new homes.

Homes are deemed long term empty if no-one has lived in them for six months or more and they are not being used as a second home.

Julie Smith and Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk Council's cabinet member for housing
Julie Smith and Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, West Suffolk Council's cabinet member for housing

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, cabinet member for housing, said: “We look to offer support where we can to encourage people to bring their empty homes back into use so they can become places where new families make their memories, while we also offer help to those who are struggling to meet the costs of certain repairs.

“As a final incentive we would remind owners that properties left unoccupied after two years are subject to a 200 per cent council tax charge.

“Our preference is always that owners work with us where needed, to bring their empty homes back into use and help meet some of the local housing need.”

As part of national Empty Homes Week, the council has promoted its Empty Homes Grant, which provides a maximum of £20,000.

It highlighted how the grant was used to help renovate a three bed home, in The Street, Worlington, which stood empty for nearly three years and can now welcome new tenants.

Owner Julie Smith said: “We bought the house 30 years ago and lived in it for the first 15 years before deciding to rent it out.

“The income is our pension pot but when our last tenants moved out in December 2016, we knew we needed to carry about some repairs.

“We’ve been trying to do a lot of the work ourselves as we didn’t have the spare money but that meant it was taking longer.

“The grant has been a huge help and has brought forward a lot of the work.”

The grant is available when a home has been empty for more than a year.

It is repayable if there is a change of ownership or if the property, once back in use, becomes empty again for three months or more.

Visit www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/housing/empty_houses/emptyhomesgrant.cfm

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