Birmingham news Scandal of 4,575 empty homes left to rot in city amid housing crisis MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Birmingham City Council spent £33million on temporary accommodation for homeless families while working to bring vacant houses back into use
Breaking News ! A cannabis farm ravaged by fire, a home that became a dumping ground for flytippers and rats - and a boarded-up house empty for 12 years. These are just a handful of Birmingham's 4,575 abandoned properties left to rot as thousands of homeless families long for a place to call home. A total of 3,291 families were living in hostels and B&Bs in the city at the end of June this year - a cost which set the local authority back £33million in 2019/2020 alone. The stark picture of the city's overcrowded temporary accommodation comes at a time when cramped housing is linked to the spread of Covid-19 and higher death rates. An empty property in the Longbridge area - which became a junk yard for flytippers (Image: Birmingham City Council) And despite the pandemic and housing crisis, homeowners continue to leave properties in appalling conditions - with the number of empty homes in Birmingham reaching a decade high. Birmingham City Council's empty homes team works to bring these houses back into use through repairs and - as a last resort - buying the property to sell on. But with sometimes deceased owners and others living abroad, it's no easy feat. Councillor Sharon Thompson, cabinet member for homes and neighbourhoods, said: “It’s scandalous that in the midst of a national housing crisis, people continue to leave properties abandoned and in appalling conditions that cause huge problems for their immediate neighbours and surrounding neighbourhood. "We’ll continue to work with local communities to ensure that where we can take action to bring homes back in to use, we will do so and request that should anyone be experiencing any issues with empty homes, to please get in touch.” Where Birmingham City Council's empty homes team comes in Once a property comes vacant, the first job of Birmingham City Council's empty home team is to track down the owners. Sometimes that isn't an easy task, for example where there has been a death or the homeowner is living abroad. The team will then aim to educate and encourage owners to put the house back into use. Failing that, they can then use enforcement. This includes a range of measures, including serving notices to the owners to improve the appearance. Compulsory Purchase Orders - where the council has the right to buy or take over the home - are occasionally used as a last resort if the owners do not restore the properties. With boarded-up windows and an overgrown garden, this property in Shard End has been left empty for over a decade. A whole 12 years have passed since the owners - who have since died - moved away due to financial struggles, the empty homes team told BirminghamLive. It was referred to the team last year, with the property found 'insecure' on two occasions. The boarded-up property in Shard End (Glebe Farm & Tile Cross Ward) was referred to the empty homes team in 2019 (Image: Birmingham City Council) As part of enforcement work, two notices were served and the property was secured. A further notice was served in order to improve the appearance of the property. This was not complied with and the team arranged for contractors to carry out the work. A charge was placed with the Land Registry for all of the enforcement work in order to recoup costs once the property is sold. The next step for the house will be the compulsory purchase route - meaning the council will buy or take the house to sell on. The state of the abandoned property in Bordesley Green Elsewhere in the city, another vacant property tells an entirely different story of disrepair. After the homeowner died, it was taken over and transformed into a cannabis farm.
. When firefighters were putting out the flames they discovered 200 cannabis plants with a street value of £200k - a sum which was more than the £170,000 the house was worth. The empty homes team picked up the case after reading that the former drug factory was up for auction from BirminghamLive's report in May last year.
(Image: Birmingham City Council)
"There was horrendous internal damage and roof collapsed so property was completely exposed," the empty homes team explained. The address sold at auction in June 2019, but the sale couldn’t complete until the Land Registry charges had cleared. However, they found that the company that filed the charges had dissolved and so the seller's solicitors filed a notice with the Land Registry to remove the charges. The team said this took a substantial amount of time, but the sale has now completed and renovations are ongoing.
Careless flytippers began using the front and rear of Longbridge property to dump rubbish, sparking a rat infestation
(Image: Birmingham City Council)
A third home, in the Longbridge area, became a junk yard for careless flytippers who began dumping rubbish at the front and rear of the property. Located in the Rednal/ Rubery ward, the property has been empty for two years. Renovations were carried out after it was sold to a London-based company in January 2019. But the property was then broken into by thieves who stole the white goods from inside - along with fence panels. It was then that the property then "became a scene of flytipping with rats present", the team said. A notice has since been served on the property to improve its appearance. They said the notice was "carried out in default of compliance". Renovations have not yet started and property remains empty.
One notice has been served on the property to improve the appearance
(Image: Birmingham City Council)
These properties account for just three of the 4,575 in Birmingham left standing empty for at least six months - if not longer - as of September this year, according to new government figures. These are houses and flats that are both unlived in and unfurnished, so the figure excludes second homes, as well as those that are vacant due to flooding or undergoing major repair work. The figure is up by 18% from 4,283 empty homes as of September last year - at least the eighth annual increase in a row. Action on Empty Homes, which campaigns for vacant houses to be used to fulfil the housing need, said this is particularly concerning at a time when housing pressures are being exacerbated by the pandemic
Will McMahon, director of Action on Empty Homes, said: “The new figures are exceptionally worrying. It can’t be right that in the last four years we have seen an escalating housing crisis while the number of long-term empty homes keeps rising. “Today there are nearly 100,000 families [nationally] languishing in overcrowded and temporary accommodation at a time when we know that overcrowded housing is being linked to the spread of the coronavirus and to higher mortality. “During a national housing crisis we cannot afford to see over 268,000 homes stand empty across the country because of the lack of a government strategy to support councils to bring them back into use. "It will be impossible to ‘build back better’ if we keep letting our housing crisis get worse. Action on Empty Homes calls on the Government to introduce a new national empty homes programme to create additional housing supply for those in most housing need, utilising properties currently left vacant or in need of renovation.”
Source = MetiNews.Com