A MAJOR initiative to ensure hundreds of long-term empty properties are brought back into use is set to be launched by West Oxfordshire District Council.

The Long Term Empty Property Strategy is designed to identify homes that have been vacant for more than six months and will work with owners on making them available for occupation.

The aim is to help ease the housing waiting list as well as ensuring dilapidated properties are improved, benefiting communities and the environment.

At the end of August 2019 West Oxfordshire district had 418 properties classed as being empty for more than six months.

Cllr Steve Good, Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing, said: “We initially need to find out why these properties have stood empty for so long and then work as hard as we can to ensure they become available for residents.

“Often owners just need a little help and advice to help with issues and that way we can free up homes for those wanting to live and work in the District as well as alleviating problems such as anti-social behaviour and vandalism often associated with dilapidated properties.”

A dedicated empty homes officer has now been appointed by the council to work with property owners and explore the options available to them.

An empty property database is also being established containing information provided by council tax and collected through investigations, reviews, complaints and surveys.

When properties become empty, the council will try to locate owners and offer advice on how to bring the homes back into use.

When this is not successful the council will move on to formal enforcement measures against the owner that could ultimately include a compulsory purchase order or enforced sale.

In 2018 more than 2,350 applications had been made to join the housing waiting list of which more than 700 were classified as homeless and in need of housing provision. A total of 76 households were placed into temporary accommodation.

Cllr Good added: “A growing population and high property prices is making it harder for people to find a home so this scheme will hopefully help alleviate the situation by making use of existing housing.”

The Empty Homes Strategy is due to be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, November 13.