Cllr Pat Coleman is the Cabinet Member for Housing on Dartford Borough Council
Since 2011 Dartford Borough Council has successfully reduced the number of long-term (i.e. over six months unoccupied and unfurnished) empty properties from 336 to 169. This has been achieved by engaging with the owners of these properties to understand why their properties have been vacant for so long. We then offer advice and guidance to assist these owners in bringing their valuable assets back into beneficial use.
Empty properties arise for many reasons and once these have been identified the Council offer tailored action plans to the owners. We have found a large percentage of them either have financial difficulties or a resistance to being landlords, maybe due to previous bad experiences. To resolve this the Council introduced interest free loans and a hassle free leasing scheme for them. We found such owners eagerly grasped the opportunity for returning their properties into beneficial occupation and gaining an income from them once again.
Our ‘empty property’ work is far from over and, for the next five years, we are planning to tackle all properties over two years empty. Some of these are in a very run-down condition or are wasting away on planned development sites waiting for improved economic opportunities.
These particular properties will present the greatest challenge we have faced so far but will be met with all of the ‘empty property’ tools available to us to bring them back into use. During this time we will work hard to bring such properties back into occupation, thereby assisting with meeting the rising demand for housing in our borough.