Quality remains vital in quest for new homes

Empty homes
Empty homes
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CABINET CALL: By South Holland District Councillor Christine Lawton

A recent comment by the National Policy for the Built Environment Committee noted that if we build houses in the wrong place, to a poor standard and without the consent of local communities then we are storing up future misery.

The demand for housing in our district is very high, but the need to deliver new homes must not come at the expense of quality.

That said, there are other ways of dealing with the chronic shortage of homes and details of two such schemes can be found on SHDC’s website.

A Custom and Self Build Register is now online enabling us to understand the demand for these two options.

Self Build is exactly what it says - not just for Grand Designers, but for enterprising individuals to build their own home.

We will explore the option of providing serviced plots of land if there’s enough appetite.

Custom Build is for individuals who will find their own builder to design and build a home to their specification.

Dealing with serviced plots and infrastructure is one way we will help.

If enough people are interested in these options then we will ensure the output goes into the emerging South East Lincolnshire Local Plan.

It is not just by building new homes that we can address the national shortage of houses, but also by bringing empty properties back into use.

We have a range of powers to compel owners to return a house to use but we would rather encourage owners to keep homes occupied.

If a home has been empty for more than two years, the owner will be subject to 150% council tax and the property is more likely to be at risk of vandalism, plus repairs and maintenance costs can be high.

Our Empty Homes team is dealing with this issue and having success - this year there are 186 empty homes in the district, down from last year’s total of 251.

For each home brought back into use we receive a New Homes Bonus which helps us keep Housing Advice and other front-line services available for all.

We don’t want houses being a blot on the landscape. By bringing existing homes back into use and encouraging enterprising self-builders, we are trying to ensure that delivery of much needed homes is not simply a matter of large scale development.

Every little helps, as they say!