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Freedom of Information Request - Long Term Empty Properties

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Dear Colchester Borough Council,

I am writing to you to request the following information under the Freedom of Information Act:

1) Can the council confirm their current number of Long Term Empty Properties as of the 8th May (those domestic properties which have been empty for six months or older)
2) What work is the council currently undertaking or planning to undertake around reducing their long term empty properties in 2019?
3) During 2018 did you undertake any work around reducing your Long Term Empty Properties. If you did was this done using internal resource or a third party?
4) If yes is the answer to question three, did the council review every single long term property
5) Does the reduction of empty homes in the council area form part of your Housing strategy?
6) Does the council have a budget in place to help support the reduction of empty properties?
7) How much did the council spend on temporary accommodation during 2018?
8) Does the council offer financial support /loans to Long Term Empty property owners to help them bring properties back into use?

Yours faithfully,

Alex Arthur

Info, Colchester Borough Council

Dear Alex,

 

Thank you for contacting Colchester Borough Council requesting information
regarding Long Term Empty Properties

 

Your request has been logged under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
2000 with the reference above. An officer is reviewing your request and
will respond accordingly. 

  

You can find advice and guidance about accessing information from public
bodies from the Information Commissioner’s Office at
 [1]www.ico.org.uk/your-data-matters/official-information 

 

Many thanks,

 

Customer Information 
Colchester Borough Council 
[2][Colchester Borough Council request email] 
[3]https://www.colchester.gov.uk/info 

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Info, Colchester Borough Council

Dear Mr Arthur,

 

Firstly, apologies for the delay in responding to your request.

 

Please see the answers to your questions in black below.

 

 

 1. Can the council confirm their current number of Long Term Empty
Properties as of the 8th May (those domestic properties which have
been empty for six months or older)

On 8^th May, we had 459 Long Term Empty properties, and an additional 155
properties subject to a Long Term Empty Premium (meaning they’ve been
empty for 2 years or more).

 

 2. What work is the council currently undertaking or planning to
undertake around reducing their long term empty properties in 2019?

No proactive work planned. Reacting to complaints only. Minimal/light
touch action to ensure properties are secure, any accumulations are
removed, property Is not detrimental to the area. The offer of an Empty
Property Loan is available to assist in paying for costs of works to
remove serious housing hazards to bring the property back in to use. When
a complaint is received, all property owners are contacted to advise of
the availability of the loan and of the Council’s Privat Sector Leasing
Scheme and Home Step Scheme.

 

 3. During 2018 did you undertake any work around reducing your Long Term
Empty Properties. If you did was this done using internal resource or
a third party?

Reactive work only using existing internal resources, no officer has this
as a specific area of responsibility.3 long term vacant properties brought
back into use in this way.

 

 4. If yes is the answer to question three, did the council review every
single long term property

No

 

 5. Does the reduction of empty homes in the council area form part of
your Housing strategy?

Yes – “To maintain and where possible reduce the currently low levels of
long term empty properties in the Private Sector” by “Responding to
enquiries regarding long term empty properties and take informal or formal
action as appropriate and offering financial assistance to bring empty
properties back in to use wherever possible to reduce the effect of the
property on the neighbourhood. “

 

 6. Does the council have a budget in place to help support the reduction
of empty properties?

No specific budget is set aside for this work

 

 7. How much did the council spend on temporary accommodation during 2018?

2017/18 Total (inc B&B) - £770,000 B&B - £183,722 

2018/19 Total (inc B&B) - £802,813 B&B - £211,779

 

 8. Does the council offer financial support /loans to Long Term Empty
property owners to help them bring properties back into use?

Yes. Maximum £30K Empty Property Loan is available, secured as a charge on
the property, to pay for works to remove serious housing hazards. Council
has nomination rights to the property. Loan is repayable out of rent on a
monthly basis.

 

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding this request
please email [1][Colchester Borough Council request email] quoting the reference number
above.                                                                                  

 

Your right to request a review

 

If you are unhappy with our response to your request for information, we
have an internal review process . The internal review will be carried out
by our Monitoring Officer who will assess how your request was handled.

 

If you wish to request an internal review, please send an email to the
Monitoring Officer at  [2][Colchester Borough Council request email] or by post to: Monitoring
Officer, Colchester Borough Council, Rowan House, Colchester CO3 3WG. Your
review request should detail why you are unhappy with our response and
should be made as soon as practicable or within 2 months of our response.
We will respond when the review has been completed.

 

If you are not satisfied with the internal review, you may then refer to
the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision on:

 

·         Whether we have responded to your request for information in
accordance with Part 2 of the Freedom of Information Act; or,

 

·         Whether we are justified in refusing to give you the information
requested

 

More detailed information on your rights to review is on the Information
Commissioner’s Office website:  [3]https://ico.org.uk

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Customer Information 
Colchester Borough Council 
[4][Colchester Borough Council request email] 

 

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