Empty homes can attract vandalism as well as criminal activity and the increasing crime and the fear of crime can have a seriously detrimental impact on our communities.

Thanks to recent work by the Council’s housing initiatives team, five more long-term vacant properties in the city will soon be back on the road to occupation.

The number of people and families on the Council’s housing waiting lists continues to grow, but new-build properties, at current rates of completion, cannot accommodate everyone.

The empty homes issue is clearly of national importance and to the Council locally as a way of increasing the supply of affordable housing. I believe we need to work hard to continue to tackle this socially unacceptable waste of the city’s existing housing stock.

There has been a reduction in the number of empty homes in recent years due to the excellent work of our housing initiatives team.

In 2010 there were 4500 empty properties, and around 2500 were empty for longer than six months. In 2016, there were 3270 empty homes with 1821 being empty for longer than six months. Continuing to target the return of empty homes to the useful housing stock is therefore, crucial.

We are always optimistic that a constructive dialogue with property owners will produce a way forward without resorting to enforcement procedures. But sometimes, progress cannot be made and enforced sale proceedings are the only option to bring properties back into use. This can be complicated and time consuming work as there can be family divisions or complex legal issues, for example. All properties are empty for a reason, and it often proves to be the case that the longer a property has been empty, the more complicated the solution can be.

The Council’s successful programme of compulsory purchase of the most problematic empty homes is essential. When the compulsory purchase process is completed, properties are generally first assessed to determine whether they are suitable for renting as Council homes. If they are suitable, they are sold by public auction, thereby keeping costs to a minimum. Costs incurred are far outweighed through debt recovery activities and New Homes Bonus income.

The difference that can be made to a street or an area following the renovation of problematic empty homes is considerable. A property returned to use provides additional occupied accommodation in the city and the removal of a potential source of blight. Most importantly though, it provides a home for an individual or a family at a time when so many people are in housing need.

We are committed to delivering new homes where possible and improving the standard of existing homes in Derby by working closely with communities and partner organisations.

This work is vital to help us provide homes to those who so desperately need them and I am proud of the great work we invest in these efforts.

Published: Friday 13th January 2017