Covid still impacting housing provision across Bedford Borough

Tradespeople Electrician

The lack of available tradespeople and the rising cost of materials are delaying property owners from trying to bring empty homes in the borough back into use.

Tracey Barrett, team leader, housing policy, development & viability team, told the Housing Committee yesterday (June 15) that the council regularly contacts the owners of empty homes.

“To encourage them to bring their property back into use, and to find out what’s happening with each of them,” she said.

“We’re still being told by empty homeowners that some of them are struggling to find tradespeople and materials post the Covid pandemic.

Bedford Mayor, Dave Hodgson, said: “I know individuals and households are not only having issues getting tradespeople but also the cost has gone up massively for many people.”

Ms Barrett replied that some owners have made contact to say the increased costs mean they’re having to do the work themselves, which is delaying the homes being brought back into use.

A report to the committee said that in March the number of homes registered as empty in the borough for over 12 months for Council Tax purposes was 763.

This was an increase of 47 over the previous nine months.

Twenty of the properties were either in probate or the liable party is either giving or receiving care.

Ms Barrett said that in line with the Empty Homes Strategy, the council does not proactively chase those cases.

In the reporting period July 2021 to March 2022, the number of properties vacant for between one and two years has increased from 333 to 346.

In the two-to-five year category, there has been an increase of 22.

The total number of homes empty for five-to-ten years has increased by ten.

The number of properties empty for ten years plus has increased by two.

The number of homes empty for more than five years has decreased by 27.3 per cent since the Empty Homes Programme started in 2014.

Residents can contact the council online if they are concerned about an empty property in their neighbourhood.

The council offers free advice to owners of empty homes, including advice and support with renting out the property and a free tenancy deposit guarantee scheme.

If you think an empty property is being used for criminal activity then contact Bedfordshire Police on 101.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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