Government's empty homes record slammed

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The Welsh government has been slammed for making little progress with a scheme to bring void houses back into use.

Peter Black, the Welsh Liberal Democrats' housing spokesperson, has expressed concerns after recent statistics showed that the government's 'Houses into Homes' scheme has brought only 313 empty properties back into use during the 18-months between its launch and September 2013.

The government’s target is 5,000 empty homes being restored to habitation over the five-year Assembly term.

Figures published in January showed that there are 19,764 empty and unfurnished homes across Wales which are currently exempt from council tax. In addition there are a further 5,604 dwellings which are exempt as a result of being vacant on the death of the occupant or owner.

Black said: “The minister has set an ambitious and much needed target of 5,000 empty properties becoming homes during this government.

“Yet nearly three years into this five-year Assembly term he has not even reached 10% of that target. It may well be that there are a number of applications still being processed but that is unlikely to get him back on schedule.

“The Welsh government needs to take a much tougher approach to this issue with a national empty homes strategy to drive forward the programme across Wales. This would also involve a proper assessment of the resources and tools needed by local councils on the ground and proper coordination of their work.

“At the current rate only 1,251 empty houses will have become homes by the end of the Assembly term. That would be 25% of the government’s target. Ministers need to pick up the pace now or risk failure.”