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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July 2005, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Hoarders blamed for home deficit
Catherine Cashmore
BBC News, Nottingham

empty houses
Empty homes are a waste as well as an eyesore

TV programmes and speculators are being blamed for a rise in the number of empty homes in the East Midlands.

Absent landlords are buying up derelict houses simply to wait for the next property boom.

Others, inspired by makeover programmes, are buying old properties to do them up but fail to realise how time consuming and difficult it is.

There are currently 58,192 derelict homes in the region, blighting their communities by being magnets for vandalism, squatters and rats.

Many councils are now employing people to get empty homes lived in.

One of those people is Andrew Vickers, the newly-appointed empty homes officer for Nottingham City Council.

"There are 483 empty homes on my list, one which has been empty for 17 years," he said.

"These people see these DIY programmes and they want to get on with it - they've no concern for the neighbours or the community, they're very selfish empty home owners.

"Many speculators buy up portfolios of properties waiting to cash in on price increases."

The council uses compulsory purchase orders allowing local authorities to take possession of a property if an owner fails to get it occupied.

It has also removed a 50% Council Tax discount for unoccupied homes and charges full rates to absent landlords in an attempt to get empty houses occupied.

Former fruit and veg shop
Renovating the shop to a house has taken two and a half years

Since Mr Vickers started in his job a few months ago 220 empty homes out of an initial figure of 550 have been brought back into use in Nottingham.

"There is a demand for houses and people are squandering resources that could be used to put a roof over people's heads," Mr Vickers said.

As well as often being neglected, empty houses can affect a whole area.

Council housing experts believe a boarded up or rundown property on a street can take as much as 10,000 off the value of neighbouring house.

"People identify empty homes and they start dumping sofas and fridges," Mr Vickers said.

"When they see there is no possession it becomes fair game. If anything's not nailed down, it goes.

"If they'd had it occupied it wouldn't have happened."

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England wants more brownfield sites to be built on and more old houses refurbished to protect the countryside from being used to meet the demand for houses.

But financial assistance for such schemes varies from area to area.

Nottingham offers no incentives but a few miles away in Amber Valley, Derbyshire, the borough council offers up to 20,000 to help first-time buyers do up redundant buildings.

We've saved our history, we've saved our heritage
Steve Marshall, renovator

Steve Marshall and Clare Petterfore have spent three years renovating a former fruit and vegetable wholesaler, built in 1892 in Heanor, Derbyshire.

"I can remember it being a fruit and veg shop when I was a young lad, I used to come in here with my mum," Mr Marshall said.

"The floors were rotten, the roof needed doing, you could see the stars from the inside.

"We've saved our history, we've saved our heritage."

Ms Petterfore said the development has visibly improved the street.

"Everyone's supporting it, the neighbour's have said they're glad it's not a builder who would knock it down," she said.

Mr Vickers says improvement grants should be more readily available but also wants stronger powers to takeover empty houses and make it easier to bring them back into use.

Shelter makes empty housing call
18 May 05 |  Scotland
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13 May 05 |  Lincolnshire
Street with no homes 'cheapest'
26 Apr 05 |  England

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