A tough new policy to crack down on London’s thousands of empty homes has been drawn up by Greenwich council.
There are 1,300 homes in the borough currently lying empty - homes considered a blight on the community but which, if restored, could provide badly needed housing.
'Left empty for a long time, homes fall into disrepair and attract vandals and squatters'
“We will use a carrot and stick approach, becoming increasingly heavy with the stick over time as other inducements or incentives fail," warns the council.
The "carrots" include grants of up to £15,000 to help owners do their property up, and interest-free improvement loans of up to £20,000 to owners willing to later rent their properties to council-nominated tenants. The "stick" includes the "last resort" of having a home compulsorily purchased.
David Ireland, head of the Empty Homes Agency, welcomed the move: "An empty home is the worst neighbour you can have and it is frightening how quickly a house can deteriorate."
There are an estimated 80,000 empty homes in London. Last year Mayor Boris Johnson announced a £60 million drive to bring them back into use. That money became available to councils in April.
Under the Greenwich proposals, council officers will offer owners advice and support to help them sell or let their empty property, including putting the owner in touch with estate agents who specialise in marketing long-term empty properties, and giving information about renting properties through social-housing schemes.
The council defines an empty property as one which has been vacant for six months or more. "When they have been vacant for a long time they fall into disrepair and attract vandals and squatters," a report on the scheme explains.
The key reasons for so many empty homes at the moment, it adds, include houses that are up for sale but have failed to attract a buyer, and buy-to-let homes that cannot be let. In these cases, says the council, compulsory purchase would not be used.