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Council tackles empty homes problem

More than 80 homes in the South Hams have been lying empty for more than two years, the district council has estimated.
Now councillors want to see if they can persuade the owners to use them again – to help re-house families.
Simon Wright, South Hams Council executive councillor for housing, said: ‘Empty properties are a wasted resource particularly with the current shortage of affordable housing in the South Hams. It makes sense to do all that we can to bring these valuable assets back into use.’
The council is surveying property owners to find out why the buildings are unused.
The council hopes the results will show why some properties are empty and what plans there may be, if any, to bring them back into use.
Homes can be left unoccupied for a variety of reasons and the council wants to help people make full use of what could be a valuable asset, not just for the owner, but for a local family looking for somewhere to live.
The council is also aware that in some cases the condition of these properties may be affecting the wellbeing of local communities, having an adverse affect on neighbourhoods, or acting as a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Wright said: ‘Afford­able homes for local people can be provided in a number of ways and this scheme is one of the viable alternatives to building new homes.
‘By encouraging people to take action and repair or renovate these properties we are also helping to boost the job prospects for local trades people and craftsmen.’
He said that a large number of owners will already have plans for the future of their property but others may need a helping hand, and this is where the council can offer advice and information to owners, tenants and landlords.
Financial help may also be available towards repairs and renovations through a range of grants and loans, usually subject to the owner agreeing to rent out the property when work has been completed. Low interest loans are also available for repair work.
The council can offer first-time and existing landlords in the South Hams, a property management service through its Direct Lets Scheme. The council can also put owners in touch with a charitable scheme which offers a grant for essential repairs and a property management service, in return for a lease agreement.
For further information, or to tell the council about an empty property, call the environmental health team on 01803 861234, email, call in to the council’s offices at Follaton House or visit www.south

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