Long-term vacant properties in Ipswich on decline amid national housing crisis

Hundreds of homes sit empty in Ipswich despite a national shortage (stock image) Picture: THINKSTOCK

Hundreds of homes sit empty in Ipswich despite a national shortage (stock image) Picture: THINKSTOCK - Credit: Archant

Ipswich has bucked national trends after the number of long-term vacant homes in the town decreased over the last year.

More than 300 homes had been vacant for more than six months as of October 2019 at 344 – however, this represents a decrease on the year prior at 368, according to the latest government figures.

Of those 344 homes, 39 are owned by Ipswich Borough Council – down by three from the previous year.

All but one area of Suffolk also saw a decrease in the number of long-term empty homes, with Babergh and Mid Suffolk's figures reducing by 33 and 31 respectively, while the East Suffolk figure, combining the former Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, reduced by four to 1,126.

West Suffolk, formed following the merger of Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils, saw its figure rise slightly from 611 to 622.

Nationally, the number of long-term empty homes rose by 9,659 between 2018 and 2019 – with the figure standing at 225,845.

The figures come as pressure group Action on Empty Homes warns of a national housing crisis and calls on the government to implement a strategy to utilise empty homes for those in need.

Alasdair Ross

Alasdair Ross - Credit: Archant

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Alasdair Ross, Ipswich Borough Council's portfolio holder for community protection, said the authority works hard to ensure the number of long-term vacant properties is minimised – including those that are privately owned.

He said: “Where an empty property is causing a nuisance or is affecting neighbouring houses, we will work with owners to minimise any nuisance while we continue to try to bring the property back into use, using current legal powers if necessary.

“If a property has been empty for longer than six months we will contact the owner to ask what they plan to do with the house.

"At this stage we will offer advice and assistance to help the owner return the property back into use and this often happens. However if the property is not returned to use, we can use our legal powers to ensure this.”

His words were echoed by portfolio holder for housing and health, Neil MacDonald, who said the council does well compared to other authorities, having re-let 165 properties between April and November this year."