Figures released by the City Council to coincide with Empty Homes Week have revealed a 67 per cent drop in the number of properties that are unoccupied in Oxford.
Every year the Empty Homes Network and empty property practitioners use this week to highlight the issue of empty dwellings nationwide and locally. When the Council employed an empty homes officer in 2005 there were 900 dwellings that had been empty for six months or longer across the city.
According to the Office for National Statistics there are now a million homes lying empty in England and Wales. However, Oxford now has only 300 empty properties of which 59 have been unoccupied for over two years.
Councillor Mike Rowley, Board Member for Housing and Property Services, said: “Britain is in the grip of a worsening housing divide between those who can afford to leave homes lying empty and those forced to live on top of one another in overcrowded households or in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
“The reduction in empty homes is principally due to the Council’s commitment to encourage owners of empty dwellings to bring them back into use. We have a three year empty property strategy to 2018 that sets out our commitment to bringing longstanding empty homes back into occupation. With the acute housing shortages in Oxford, we cannot afford to have much needed homes lying idle.”
When an empty property is identified, the Council always tries to work with the owner to bring the property back into use. We work with property owners and signpost them to organisations that can assist with VAT relief on work to bring a property back into use.
However, where the owner is unwilling to do so, the Council can take formal action through Empty Dwelling Management orders and Compulsory Purchase Orders. We also encourage owners of properties which are rarely occupied, especially second homes, to consider making them available to rent.
Members of the public can report empty properties by filling in the form on our website.