Kent’s Empty Property Initiative
Kent County Council launched its ‘No Use Empty’ campaign in 2005 as part of its second round PSA commitments to examine better ways of delivering services, and particularly at working more effectively with district councils. The primary aim of the Initiative is to improve the physical urban environment in Kent by bringing empty properties back into use as quality housing accommodation and to raise awareness of the issues surrounding empty properties highlighting the problems they cause to local communities.
The initial campaign focused on four East Kent districts. Having exceeded the original targets set, the initiative was expanded to embrace the whole of Kent with all 12 local councils on board and continues to go from strength to strength.
Latest statistics released (source Council Tax data October 2016) show that there are currently 16,009 empty properties across Kent, of which 4,999 are classed as being long term empty (more than 6 months), depriving people of a much needed home. There has been an overall net reduction of 4,552 empty properties in Kent since 2005.
No Use Empty has brought back into use over 5,000 empty properties through a variety of interventions since its inception in 2005 contributing to the overall net reduction
The objective of the initiative is to raise awareness of the issues surrounding empty housing and the problems they cause to local communities, and to help reduce the number of long term empties by bringing them back into use.
£17.6M loans, (from £25,000 to £175,000) have been awarded to property owners across Kent to date. This has also levered in £23.4M private sector finance in form of owners contributions to the local economy, particularly relevant in these turbulent times, where funding available to owners and developers has been restricted or lending criteria tightened.
No Use Empty continues to support the existing work carried out by the local councils to tackle the problem, giving housing officers access to a wider group of resources, skills and experiences and engaging in a joined-up approach with Kent County Council and bordering districts to achieve improved results in returning properties back to use.
We have an established partnership with Bristol City Council and the West of England who have their own “No Use Empty” initiative. The Welsh Government have also based their Empty Homes Loan Fund on the Kent Model. We have also advised the Scottish Government.