CouncillorFarrance asked the Leader the following question:
“The Local Plan requires over 17,000 homes to be built in Thanet, mainly on our precious farmland. There are 5,517 empty homes in Thanet, and 517 empty commercial properties.
Given that there are a variety of reasons for empty homes, could the Cabinet Member please give a breakdown of the number of empty homes in each category, and explain what TDC is doing to encourage the owners in each category to return these empty homes to much-needed occupation. Which would surely mean that less farmland would be required for building.”
The Leader responded with the following points:
· Council Tax information was the most reliable and accurate means of identifying the number of empty homes in the District. The following response was based on live Council Tax information.
· The council tax data included a number of different categories with a council tax exemption. Some of these were not really empty, such as second homes, homes where the resident was working away and homes owned by the Ministry of Defence. It also included homes that were between occupants, this was a normal part of the process of moving home and would be empty for less than 6 months.
· Excluding categories that were not genuinely empty, there were currently 1,593 properties, of which 572 were short term empty properties between occupants. There were 1,021 properties which had been empty for more than 6 months and which were the focus of the Council’s work to return empty homes to use.
· The Council had an Empty Homes Team who took action to help bring long term empty homes back into use.
· The Council was also able to offer loans to owners, in partnership with Kent County Council, through the No Use Empty initiative. Over £10,000,000 in loans have been approved in Thanet, which has assisted with the renovation of 364 homes.
· When the informal approach was unsuccessful, the team had a range of legislative powers at its disposal which may be used to help bring empty homes back into use. However, it is worth pointing out that there was no law against owning an empty home.
· The empty homes plan was published on the Council website here: https://www.google.com/url?q=https://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/documents/s71042/Empty%2520Homes%2520Plan%25202020-23%2520-%2520Google%2520Docs.pdf&sa=D&source=editors&ust=1626859555344000&usg=AOvVaw1JBameVvSIMKx3CataK_s0
· The plan explained in more detail how the Council could take action to bring empty homes back into use.
· There were 508 empty commercial properties, and 488 of these had been empty for more than six months.
· The Local Plan made an allowance for empty homes coming back into use. This was based on guidance received from the Planning Inspectorate when the Local Plan was being prepared.
· This allowance was already included in the Local Plan, and totalled 540 units over the Plan period to 2031. This figure represented more than half of the current long term empty homes in the District.
· In addition, the Local Plan also included 30 hectares of business premises and land released for housing purposes, and included an allowance for “windfall” sites (sites not allocated in the Plan) that may come forward.
CouncillorFarrance followed up her question by asking for reassurance that work would continue to bring empty homes back onto use.
The Leader responded that work would continue, and that she would be looking at every angle to bring down the number of houses allocated to the District.