The following is a short question and answer with an employee of a medium sized council who works with the empty homes officer. He wanted to remain anonymous. The initials are fake, obviously.
Solving Empty Homes: Thank you for talking to us. How do you fight the empty homes problem in your area?
DE: We have a few options but we are hampered by budget mostly and red tape. Everything takes so long to implement. It can be very frustrating.
SEH: We love EDMOs but are disappointed at how many have been used around the country. Why is that?
DE: Again, it’s down to money. It costs so much to put one in place. The media don’t help. They make it sound as if we just go around to a property, change the locks and move a tenant in, which isn’t true. There’s a long process through the courts.
SEH: The million-dollar question: Why don’t councils release the lists of empty properties they hold to the public?
DE: We are inundated with Freedom of Information requests for lists, and while some may be genuinely trying to put a dent in the numbers with honest intentions, some are criminals and we can’t take the risk of having the empty properties in the public domain.
SEH: But we have spoken to some council employees that have indicated they’d love to loosen the shackles slightly and work with private companies.
DE: Maybe….. but it’s knowing which are genuine and which are not.
SEH: How do you see the future of the fight against empty homes?
DE: In an ideal world, we would get a decent budget and more staff. Also, co-operation between departments could be easier. Maybe higher council tax for empty properties; that would work here but not in London. Property value increases so fast it outpaces any tax.