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Council sets out to tackle “problem” empty homes

Test Valley Borough Council has outlined plans to take action against owners of the worst long term vacant properties in the borough as they “make people’s lives a misery”.

The authority is set to consider adopting a new empty homes policy at a cabinet meeting today in a bid to force owners to bring properties that have sat uninhabited for years back into use. 

For a property to be considered long term vacant, it must have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for more than two years. Although there have consistently been very few long term vacant homes in Test Valley, particularly when compared with the rest of Hampshire, the council has said that it remains committed to dealing with the issue due to its impact on the local community.

Portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, councillor Phil Bundy, said “First and foremost we will not be heavy handed, as we want to support owners to bring empty properties back into use. That said, we also want to make best use of available homes in the borough and we want our neighbourhoods to be pleasant places to live.

“For the tiny minority of empty homeowners who knowingly and deliberately leave their properties empty year after year, we will take action. Overgrown and boarded up properties attract pests and crime, and make people’s lives a misery. 

“If it becomes clear an owner has no intention of bringing their long term vacant property back into use then we will consider taking the decision out of their hands.”

Test Valley has approximately 470 empty homes in the area. While the vast majority are brought back into use within two years, the council intends to target those left vacant beyond that, and in particular the small number that are left for far longer. 

Councillor Bundy added: “We are focused on properties left too long. The ones that become a blight on communities. If you own a property in Test Valley and you have left it vacant for many years, now would be a good time to consider how you intend to bring it back into use. Otherwise, the council might do it for you.”

The new policy will help the council to deal with properties such as 91 Charlton Road in Andover, which has attracted criticism in the past due to its condition.

The council can provide support to owners of empty properties to help bring them back into use. TVBC’s private sector housing team can be contacted on 01264 368000 or 01794 527700.