St Albans council threatens to sell off vacant homes as figures reveal over 1,000 in the area

St Albans council offices.

St Albans council offices. - Credit: Archant

Authorities have threatened to sell off vacant homes in the district after government figures revealed there are 1,300 in the area.

Ministry of Housing figures show 1,331 homes - one in 45 - were sitting empty in the local authority area and of these, 286 had been unoccupied for at least six months by last October, when the count was taken.

A Ministry of Housing spokesperson said: “The number of long-term vacant dwellings in England is still lower than when records began, but we are determined to bring this figure down.

“That is why we are equipping councils with tools they need to tackle the issue head on, such as bringing forward legislation that will allow them to double the rate of council tax on those homes left empty for two years or longer.”

382 new homes were created in the St Albans area last year, including those converted from office blocks and houses split into flats, but there are fewer vacant properties in St Albans than in previous years. In 2008, when the number of vacant properties peaked at 783,119 nationwide, there were 1,348 in this area.

St Albans council’s head of housing Karen Dragovic said: “The number of homes vacant for six months or more in the district is in line with neighbouring local authorities.

“There are many reasons why homes become empty for this length of time including long-term building work, bereavement and owners moving away temporarily for employment reasons.

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“Our focus is on bringing homes back into use that have been empty for two years or more as we feel this is an unacceptably long period, given the high demand for housing in the area.

“We appointed an empty homes officer last year with the task of bringing such properties back into use by intervening, tracing the owners and discussing their plans.

“As a last resort if the owner refuses to co-operate, the council can apply for a compulsory purchase order or pursue an enforced sale depending on the circumstances of a case.

“We have had success with our efforts, recently helping to bring three homes in the Sopwell area that had lain empty for more than 20 years back into use. Two of those properties have been let and the other is now being advertised for let.”