Local authorities empowered to take over empty homes

The government is introducing powers to allow local authorities to commandeer properties that have been empty for six months and turn them into social housing.

The Empty Dwelling Management Order will come into force next month and allow local authorities to combat the lack of social housing by stepping into the shoes of the owners of unoccupied properties if they are unlikely to be occupied in the near future.

Owners will be paid surplus revenue left after the local authority has accounted for running costs.

The Department of Communities and Local Government says the move is in response to the shortage of housing and adds it is hard to justify building new homes when 250,000 stand empty.

Housing charity Shelter says the mismatch between demand and supply means nearly 100,000 people are living in temporary accommodation, and since the Right to Buy scheme was introduced in 1980 the social housing sector has lost around two million homes.

But the new government scheme has attracted criticism as the legislation means bereaved families could see the homes of their dead relatives commandeered if they do not sell or rent them out six months after their death.

A spokesman for the DCLG says: “The owner retains ownership rights and can dispose of their dwelling rights or seek revocation of the order to enable a sale or secure occupation.”