This is what Milton Keynes Council are doing about the 2,000 empty homes in our area

    Milton Keynes Council have revealed plans to 'take action' on over 2,000 empty homes in our area, but opponents say it is 'more empty promises'.

    There are currently 2,100 privately owned empty properties in Milton Keynes, including 223 in Bletchley, 201 in Central Milton Keynes, 95 in Newport Pagnell, 82 in Broughton 72 in Wolverton, 55 in Stony Stratford and 53 in Emerson Valley.

    Of these, 108 have been empty for more than two years.

    But now Milton Keynes Council will agree later this month a brand new Empty Homes Strategy which will commence a wide range of actions to try and persuade, and in some cases force, owners to bring their properties back into use.

    Measures will range from incentives, to enforcement to purchasing empty properties.

    Cllr Nigel Long Cabinet member for Housing said: "It is fundamentally wrong that with Milton Keynes facing a housing crisis and there being nearly 600 homeless families in temporary accommodation that there are over 2000 homes sitting empty across the city. Bringing these homes back into use is essential to our priority of ending homelessness.”

    But opposition parties say it is too little, too late.

    A Conservative spokesperson said: "Labour's record on housing in MK is one of empty promises. They've overseen a huge increase in families living in temporary accomdation and allowed the number of rough sleepers to spiral out of control."

    "They have failed to build the number of Council homes they promised and have managed to get a sum total of 0 empty properties back in to use. They have had over four years to tackle the housing challenges we face and have failed every time."

    "This strategy is very late coming and I'm not convinced it will be any different to their previous promises."

    The new strategy sets out a range of measures the Council is proposing to use to tackle the problem and persuade the owners of empty homes to bring them back in to use. The measures include:
    - Applying the Empty Homes premium (Applies 50% extra Council tax to empty homes for two years)
    - Empty Homes loans scheme. (Offers a 5 year loan to the owner)
    - Enhanced private sector leasing. (Council guarantees rent to owners if let)
    - Purchasing empty properties. (This will convert them to Council houses)
    - Empty Dwelling Enforcement Orders (Council will take over property and do it up and let it)

    Council Leader Pete Marland said: “We already apply the extra Council Tax charge to 108 empty properties across Milton Keynes. This will generate an extra £86,000 this year. But it is the tip of the iceberg and we want to take action on the other 2000 empty properties. The adoption of the Empty Homes Strategy will be another foundation block in tackling the challenge of homelessness and the lack of truly affordable housing in Milton Keynes.”

    The Council approach is a mix of persuasion and enforcement if owners are not co-operating. The priorities are:

    - Work in partnership with internal stakeholders to ensure accurate records of empty homes are produced and maintained
    - Monitor trends in empty homes
    - Reduce the number of empty homes
    - Proactively return properties to use through Council schemes and enforcement action

    Cllr Long concluded: "It is appalling that over 2,000 houses are sitting empty, when we have 600 homeless families in temporary accommodation. Our proposed approach to empty homes aims to bring them back into use. We offer both the carrot and the stick. I believe this is another good step in tackling homelessness.”

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