New home ready for tenant during Empty Homes Week

A building derelict for 20 years has been turned into a new home after a collaboration with Dorset Council, and is ready for a new tenant during Empty Homes Week.

The property is owned by Blandford Freemasons which, with the assistance of the council’s empty homes team and ethical lender Lendology CIC, renovated the building and created a one bedroomed flat to rent.

The council now has exclusive rights for 10 years to rent the flat to people on the housing register with preference given to a resident with links to Blandford Forum, the same location as the property.

Councillor Graham Carr-Jones, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Community Safety, said: “We are delighted to work with property owners in this way. Turning an empty building into a flat to rent gives  someone on the housing register with links to the area, a stable and quality home.

“Not only do we aim to get empty houses back into use, but we also turn them into homes for families on our housing register. This saves us money by reducing our reliance on temporary accommodation including bed and breakfast.”

Mike Lewis, spokesman for the Blandford Freemasons, said: “This has been a great ‘win, win’ success story for us. We have taken a run-down empty building which was a drain on our resources and turned it into a home.

“We will also get a rental income to put back into the many local causes we support. Working in partnership with Dorset Council and Lendology CIC, we are justly proud of what we have all achieved”.

Ellie Lister, Operations Director for Lendology CIC, said: “This is exactly what our loan products are aimed at. We are a social enterprise who provide a range of loans to make lives better by improving the homes people live in. We pride ourselves on our personal service and seeing a building made into a safe, warm home in this way.”

Empty Homes Week

The success coincides with National Empty Homes Week, 28 February to 6 March. It highlights the ongoing work of Dorset Council in tracking down and working with property owners to turn empty properties into good quality homes.

The work is complicated and can lead the team to make enquiries across the world, delve into complicated family situations, or just help people who do not know what to do next with a property.

The team is working to bring dozens of properties back to life and they have already achieved considerable success. Communities are encouraged to continue to report long term empty properties to tackle this widespread, yet often hidden problem.

If a property owner does not engage with the council there are considerable enforcement powers to bring about improvements or even take over the use, or ownership, of the building.

It is complex, time consuming work and Suzanne Kinlough, Empty Homes Enforcement Officer, said: “We work tirelessly to track down, support and assist owners of empty homes to get them back into use.

“Where this doesn’t work, to get results, we use a range of enforcement powers from legal notices, Magistrates’ Court warrants and Compulsory Purchase Orders.

“It’s satisfying work to see a run-down house, turned into a new home for the benefit of the community.”

Councillor Graham Carr-Jones added: “Empty homes are a concern for all residents. It’s not just about the rights of the person who owns it, but the neighbours and residents around the empty property who may be impacted by it.

“We always try to help empty homeowners first, but we won’t shy away from taking formal action where the rights of neighbours and residents are affected.

“The good work keeps happening and it’s time to see if there are more out there so get in touch.”

National Empty Homes Week is run by charity Action on Empty Homes which aims to bring properties back into use for those in housing need. Government data shows there are over 238,000 homes in England have been empty for more than six months.

To inform the team of a property which may have been left empty for two years or more, or if you are the owner of an empty property and want to know what help is available, contact housingteamf@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk or https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/housing/housing/empty-properties.

 

Picture shows visitors to the renovated property in Blandford Forum (l-r)

Mike Lewis and Adam Perkins of the Blandford Freemasons with Cllr Graham Carr-Jones, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Cllr Nocturin Lacey-Clarke, Blandford Ward, outside the new home in West Street.

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