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Homes left empty face seizure
Private properties lying empty could be seized and used as council homes to ease Brighton and Hove’s housing crisis.
Brighton and Hove City Council believes the move, known as mandatory leasing, is a way to help cut its 11,000 strong housing waiting list.
With about 850 city properties currently having been empty for more than six months, it could allow thousands of people to be housed.
Bosses claim it is a “win win” situation for all.
The Department of Communities and Local Government said such powers, known as “empty dwelling management orders”, can only be used if a home has been empty for over two years.
Liz Wakefield, the council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “Most of our city’s empty homes are in the private sector.
"I support proposals to introduce a mandatory leasing system under which a private sector house left empty without good reason would be taken over by the council on a temporary basis.
“We would carry out any works needed to bring it up to scratch, let it to a household in housing need and collect the rent to pay for any building and manage- ment costs.
“A lease period would be negotiated with the landlord after which the house would be handed back.
“Everybody would benefit. The landlord’s house would be brought up to scratch and put to use and a household in need would be helped. The work would be financed through rents.”
The owners of homes empty for longer than six months can get a discount of up to 50% on council tax.
The council currently offers a leasing scheme to owners in which it takes over properties’ management for three or five years.
Andy Winter, of social charity Brighton Housing Trust, said: “I would hope to support mandatory leasing 100%.
“It seems mad in a city with a crisis like Brighton and Hove where there is high demand for housing that there are more than 800 empty homes.
“I know there is a similar approach in St Leonards in Hastings where they are making a more robust line in seven streets and issuing compulsory purchase orders on private properties that are vacant.”