Hundreds of homes stand empty

MORE than 750 homes in the Suffolk Coastal area - which is suffering a housing crisis - are standing empty, according to a report today.Some of the properties have been empty for as long as 12 years, at a time when young couples are desperate to find a place to live to stay and work in the area.

MORE than 750 homes in the Suffolk Coastal area - which is suffering a housing crisis - are standing empty, according to a report today.

Some of the properties have been empty for as long as 12 years, at a time when young couples are desperate to find a place to live to stay and work in the area.

The astonishing figures include 129 properties in Felixstowe, 71 in Sutton, 68 in Woodbridge, 61 in Aldeburgh, and 27 in Kesgrave.

Although the figure represents only 1.5 per cent of all the homes in the district, the details will be a bitter blow to people who cannot afford to buy or rent their own homes.

In addition, the district has 2,390 second homes, standing empty much of the year while their owners live elsewhere - most of them in the Aldeburgh, Dunwich, Walberswick and Bawdsey areas.

Details of the figures have been revealed in research by councillors looking at ways to increase the amount of affordable housing - including more rented homes, cheap ones for sale, and part-ownership properties where people can pay rent and mortgage to get them on the housing ladder.

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Barry Slater, chairman of the council's affordable housing research group, said the group had a “long list” of potential action to increase the amount of affordable housing but wanted to see the issue given more prominence in the council's activities.

“In particular, the group felt that more challenging annual targets for new provisions should be adopted and that the council should take a more pro-active approach in seeking the delivery of additional new accommodation,” he said.

Bringing back some of the 763 empty homes into use was one aim.

“If all of these properties could be brought back into occupation it would have a dramatic impact upon the current levels of housing need across the district,” said Mr Slater.

“Unfortunately, the council's ability to influence such a move has been limited until very recently to persuasion, with only compulsory purchase being available as a legal weapon.”

However, officers were now investigating the use of new laws brought in two years ago which could mean the council taking over the management of empty properties in private ownership.

WEBLINK: www.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

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Opinion - page 4

Second story:

NEARLY 500 new affordable homes need to be built in the Suffolk Coastal area every year.

A district-wide housing needs survey commissioned in 2000 by the council revealed 484 new affordable homes a year were required to meet demand with a particular need for rented housing - a new survey is currently under way. In the past two years 105 were built.

Although there has been a considerable amount of new house building in recent years, much of it has been targeted at people already on the rungs of the housing ladder.

Changing social trends such as more young single people wanting a home of their own, people living longer, and the break up of relationships is creating a constantly increasing need for smaller and low-cost accommodation which has not been met by the market-led demand for large properties.

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