Page last updated at 06:10 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 07:10 UK

Plea to fill empty private homes

Empty house
There are 24,500 private homes in Wales that have not been in use for six months or longer

Thousands of empty homes in Wales could be used to help alleviate housing need, a homelessness charity has claimed.

Shelter Cymru said some 24,500 empty private sector properties could be used for families on council waiting lists.

The charity wants councils to use their legislative and financial resources to find homes for the 80,000 households on local authority waiting lists in Wales.

The Welsh Local Government Association said turmoil in the housing market was restricting what councils could do.

Shelter Cymru said each of the 24,500 private homes not in use have been empty for six months or longer.

It added that some councils and their partners were carrying out positive work to make better use of empty homes but that more needed to be done.

Allowing properties to remain empty and dilapidated is a continual drain on the resources of local authorities and communities
John Pritchard, Shelter Cymru

John Pritchard, from Shelter Cymru, said: "With the lack of affordable housing across Wales and the difficulties that many people are facing in accessing either owner-occupied or rented homes, it is unacceptable that properties are languishing empty in this way.

"People are unable to find suitable homes in their communities, and allowing properties to remain empty has both social and economic costs.

"We need national and local partners to prioritise investment and to work together to implement innovative solutions to this problem."

'Renovation and letting'

Shelter Cymru's work with councils has been funded by the assembly government and will provide free advice consultancies and good practice exchanges with the aim of accelerating the effective use of privately owned empty homes.

Mr Pritchard added: "We call on both the assembly government and local government in Wales to prioritise the renovation and letting of empty properties.

"This would ensure that we are making the best use of existing housing at a time of high housing need.

"This also makes sense from an economic and environmental perspective as allowing properties to remain empty and dilapidated is a continual drain on the resources of local authorities and communities."

A WLGA spokesperson said councils recognised that "behind every empty house is a human story".

She said: "Local authorities do have powers to compulsorily purchase or manage a property but this is a complicated process and wherever possible local authorities try to reach an agreement with the owners.

'Squeeze'

"Next year's local government settlement will be very tough for councils and will inevitably put a real squeeze on councils' resources in important areas such as this."

The Welsh Assembly Government said 17,634 private homes were recorded as vacant for more than six months during 2006/07 and of these 1.49% (263) were brought back into use during the year through direct action by local authorities.

A spokesman said: "The Welsh Assembly Government is working with other organisations including Shelter Cymru to address the issues surrounding empty properties."

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03 Oct 06 |  North East Wales
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17 Jul 03 |  South West Wales

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