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More than 1,100 homes sitting empty in Dartford

PUBLISHED: 17:11 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 17:11 12 June 2018

More than 1,100 homes in Dartford are sitting empty, despite a national housing crisis which has left thousands of families homeless.

And newly released figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government show that hundreds of properties have been left unoccupied for at least six months.

In October last year, when the most recent count was taken, there were 1,120 vacant homes in Dartford - one in every 40 houses in the area. Of those, 220 were classed as long-term vacancies, meaning that they had been unoccupied for at least six months.

The problem of empty homes in Dartford has improved in recent years. In 2008, when the number of vacant properties peaked nationwide, there were 1,136 in the area.

Across England, there were more than 600,000 vacant properties last October, over a third of which were long-term vacancies.

Polly Neate, chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said that making sure properties were occupied was just part of the answer to the country’s housing shortage.

She said: “In the midst of a homelessness crisis it is of course frustrating to see houses left empty. But the fact is that even if we filled every one of these, there still wouldn’t be nearly enough homes to solve the problem.

“Decades of failure to build has left us in the lurch - the Government must now get on and build a new generation of social homes where people need them most.”

Figures show that 1,133 new homes were built in Dartford last year. In total, 1,168 new homes were created, including those converted from office blocks or houses split into flats.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 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.”

A spokesman from the council said: “Dartford Borough Council actively seeks to discover any vacant property and is keen to engage with all empty property owners to assist them in making their valuable housing assets into homes once again.

“All empty properties are reviewed annually and the owners contacted by our Empty Homes Officer to find out the reasons behind why the property remains unoccupied. Where we can, we assist owners to bring their houses back into use by giving advice and guidance. We tailor the advice to the need of the property and whatever problems the owner is experiencing.

“In partnership with Kent County Council’s No Use Empty initiative, we are able to offer interest free loans if difficulty in financing building works is the issue.

“Our 2017/18 data for vacant dwelling in Dartford records 1,120, but of these only 220 are defined as being long term vacant dwellings, that is to say, for over 6 months they have been unoccupied and unfurnished.

“Of the remaining 900 vacant dwellings approximately 400 to 500 of these will have been empty for under six months and are either in the process of being sold or rented. The other 400 or so are classified as being empty for a number of valid reasons, for example, a person is away receiving care or giving it, “subject to the probate” following the death of the owner, owned by armed forces personnel away, or being used as a second home.

“There are, however, owners of empty property who do not respond to our approaches. Only when all the informal approaches have been used do we consider using one of the enforcement options available.

“Dealing with empty properties in Dartford requires continual monitoring and intervention. Every year we successfully bring a wide variety of empty property back into use. However we are also finding new vacant dwellings and our work starts again.”

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