COUNCIL bosses in South Tyneside Council have been given £205,000 to take control of empty homes in the borough.
The cash comes from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency, and will be used to take over rundown and unoccupied properties.
The local authority is one of the first in the country to use empty dwelling management orders to take control of unoccupied private properties before refurbishing them and renting them out to local people.
Under those powers, 11 homes were recently seized in St Paul’s area of Jarrow.
Work to bring those properties back into use started in January, and South Tyneside Homes will manage them on behalf of the council for seven years, after which they will be returned to the owners.
Those properties are much-needed, with 4,210 people on the council’s housing waiting list.
The council will receive rent for the homes, the funds from which will be used to bring other empty properties into use.
Members of the council’s Place Select Committee will meet next week to consider the progress of several recommendations made by a council commission on empty properties.
Committee chairwoman Coun Nancy Maxwell said: “Tackling problems with empty properties can provide much-needed homes for local people, as well as giving local neighbourhoods a lift.
“That is why we set up a commission to look at the problem and deliver real change. We are also taking action to discourage landlords from sitting on empty homes, by making them pay full council tax on them.
“We have also secured £205,000 from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency, which means we can now take control of properties that are left empty for long periods.
“The 11 homes in the St Paul’s area of Jarrow are now being refurbished.
“It’s a great example of the council identifying an issue, delivering recommendations and following through with clear action.”
Since October 2011 the council has dealt with in excess of 1,000 complaints relating to substandard housing conditions in the private rental sector.
These complaints include disrepair, empty homes, untidy sites and, increasingly, illegal eviction.
Among the 12 recommendations of the commission was for the council to establish a database to enable early investigation of areas that are in decline, and to proactively manage their recovery.
As a result, work is continuing with information technology experts in the local authority to create a database which can track, identify and record interventions in private-sector empty properties.
A report to the committee says: “The consequences of empty homes can have adverse social, health, economic and environmental impacts on local communities.”