City misses home target

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A TARGET to bring empty homes around Sheffield back into use to tackle the city’s chronic shortage of family homes has not been met, council officials have admitted.

The council planned to take action against owners of private houses who leave them derelict or unoccupied and wanted to bring at least 30 back into use during the 2010/11 financial year.

Legal powers available include forcing owners to sell properties and Empty Dwelling Management Orders which allow local authorities to take control of private properties which have been empty for long periods of time.

Head of housing commissioning Richard Palmer said: “Thirteen properties were brought back into occupation where it can be clearly evidenced this was due to council intervention.”

During the year, the council was taking action against owners of 379 long-term empty homes in the city, a further 52 of which were brought back into use.

But Mr Palmer said in those cases it ‘could not be clearly established that the reason the property was brought back into occupation was purely as a result of our intervention’.

Opposition Labour housing spokesman Coun Chris Weldon said: “Sheffield needs to be creating more affordable housing and this not only involves making sure new homes are built but also bringing into use some of the properties that are sitting empty.

“We have been urging the Lib Dems to do more to bring empty homes into use for a long time but they’re still failing to use powers available to do this.”

Coun Penny Baker, Lib Dem cabinet member for housing, replied: “The target was to bring at least 30 empty properties back into use and, thanks to council action, 65 previously empty homes are now occupied. The fact we can’t officially count all of these because of some accounting rule is neither here nor there as far as Sheffielders are concerned.”