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Wales Councils bring just 1% of empty houses back in use

SOME 23,303 private properties were empty in Wales in 2016-17, with councils bringing less than 1 per cent back into use, figures from Cardiff Bay showed yesterday.

The number vacant has ballooned since 2012-13, when it stood at 19,612, but the Welsh government said it is working with councils to bring homes back into use.

More empty homes have been brought back into use in recent years — 962 (4.9 per cent) in 2012-13, rising to 1,347 (5.8 per cent) in the last financial year.

Housing charity Shelter Cymru said: “Empty homes are a blight on the community and a total waste of resource. They attract vandalism and vermin.”

Across Britain, the number of long-term empty homes, defined as unfurnished and unoccupied for more than six months, fell from around 300,000 in 2010 to 200,000 in 2016.

A Shelter Cymru spokeswoman said the charity is interested in “exploring the role of social landlords in refurbishing and managing empty homes in Wales.”

Authorities have the power to seize, renovate and lease property that is found to be empty for longer than six months.

The Welsh government offers loans as an incentive to convert empty properties.

A Welsh government spokesman said: “These initiatives, operated by local authorities and together amounting to over £50 million, provide home owners with the finance required to renovate the properties for rent or sale.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond recently announced in the Budget that local authorities in Britain will be able to double council taxes on empty properties.

But Labour MP Paul Sweeney warned that the move doesn’t go far enough.

“We need to have a punitive rate above normal council tax to actually incentivise reuse of empty properties,” he said. “What a joke.”


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