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Empty Homes: A blight on the community and a wasted opportunity for thousands of families waiting for a home

November 22, 2011 2:08 PM

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will this week call on the Welsh Labour Government to develop an empty homes strategy to ease the increasing demand for social housing in Wales.

Currently, there are approximately 26,000 private empty homes in Wales and they can contribute to anti-social behaviour such as vandalism, petty crime and arson, as well as creating a blight on local communities. Every empty home in Wales is also a wasted opportunity for the 87,000 households on waiting lists for social housing.

On Wednesday, Peter Black AM, will lead the debate calling on the Welsh Government to allow councils greater flexibility to impose punitive council tax rates on long term empty homes, make representations to the UK government to reduce the rate of VAT on building repairs and explore the possibility of providing low cost loans to owners to encourage the re-development of empty homes as affordable housing for rent.

Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister said:

"There are an estimated 26,000 long term empty properties in Wales. That's the equivalent of an empty medium sized town, which is staggering given the relatively small size of our country.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats have brought forward this debate and call for action after a decade of inaction by the Labour Government. Ever since the Assembly was established they have been talking about taking action on empty homes - but they so far have done nothing.

"We are calling on the Government today to help bring more empty properties into use. It is absurd that we have so many empty homes waiting to be occupied and so many households on social housing waiting lists.

"Helping owners make these into properties that people can live in, affordably, would make a huge difference to the people of Wales. It will help end homelessness, help young people onto the housing ladder and end the destructive nature of empty properties

"Just introducing new legislation will not work. The Labour Government needs to provide the help and support for local councils to be able to offer recoverable loans to owners so they can bring the properties back into use. A joined up approach to social housing between the Welsh Government, local authorities, housing associations and owners can and will make all the difference to the lack of social housing in Wales."