Agenda item

Minutes:

The Council received a notice of motion moved by Councillor John Wilmott and seconded by Councillor Helen-Ann Smith as follows:-

 

“This Council notes that according to latest figures there are currently 647 empty properties in the Ashfield District. Of these, 412 have been empty for more than 2 years, 194 for more than 5 years and 41 for more than 10 years. We note the problems that empty houses cause to neighbouring residents. They attract anti-social behaviour, dumping, vermin and have a detrimental effect on house prices.

 

This Council notes that we have failed to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO), powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

 

At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty. These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it across the District of Ashfield.

 

It is shameful that this Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. Local families have spent Christmas homeless because of the inaction and ineptitude of the current Labour Administration.

 

We therefore call on Ashfield District Council to do a review into its procedures when dealing with empty homes across our District and make use of the EDMO powers to end the scandal of empty homes.”

 

Councillor Keir Morrison moved an amendment to the motion, seconded by Councillor Amanda Brown, in the following terms:-

 

“This Council notes that, according to the latest figures, there are currently 479 empty properties in the Ashfield District which have been empty for over 2 years and that could have empty homes action taken against them; a significant decrease on the 2009 figure of 3600 empty properties presided over by the then, Liberal Democrats.  This Council has worked hard to solve the problems that empty houses bring to neighbouring residents.

 

This Council further notes the availability of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) powers which entitle local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least 6 months.  This Council also notes that the EDMO can only be used where a property is in disrepair, is the cause of anti-social behaviour and where the works required are of reasonable cost.  This Council is also aware that the use of an EDMO can take longer to complete and be more expensive than alternative options to deal with empty properties.

 

This Council further notes the growing national crisis of homelessness, the causes of which are complex and do not necessarily relate to the availability of homes.

 

This Council therefore resolves:

 

a)    to continue to review the option of using the EDMO powers, where those powers are deemed the most appropriate and effective in bringing empty properties back in use in Ashfield;

 

b)    to examine the use of alternative powers, such as those of Enforced Sales, for empty properties; a process less involved and able to deal with those exceptionally poor properties that are outside the scope of an EDMO;

 

c)    to acknowledge the recognition within the new Homelessness Act that prevention of homelessness is the key and that the lack of support for those facing homelessness is a major factor to be addressed;

 

d)    to continue to work with national and local authorities, agencies and stakeholders to provide that support, wherever possible, aimed at preventing homelessness affecting the people of Ashfield.”

 

The meeting was adjourned at 8.34 p.m. to enable Members to consider the amendment. The meeting reconvened at 8.43 p.m.

 

(At this point in the proceedings and in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 23 (Conclusion of Proceedings) a motion was moved and seconded to extend the conclusion of the meeting to 9.15 p.m.  The motion was put to the vote and duly carried.)

 

A further alteration to the amendment, as submitted by Councillor Zadrozny, was considered during the adjournment and the change of wording was subsequently agreed by all parties prior to the meeting reconvening.

 

The Director of Legal and Governance (and Monitoring Officer) took the opportunity to read out the substantive motion, in full, to all present at the meeting as follows:-

 

“At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is disappointing that so many homes locally are sitting empty.  These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it across the District of Ashfield.

 

This Council therefore resolves:

 

a)    to continue to review the option of using the EDMO powers, where those powers are deemed the most appropriate and effective in bringing empty properties back in use in Ashfield;

 

b)    to examine the use of alternative powers, such as those of Enforced Sales, for empty properties; a process less involved and able to deal with those exceptionally poor properties that are outside the scope of an EDMO;

 

c)    to acknowledge the recognition within the new Homelessness Act that prevention of homelessness is the key and that the lack of support for those facing homelessness is a major factor to be addressed;

 

d)    to continue to work with national and local authorities, agencies and stakeholders to provide that support, wherever possible, aimed at preventing homelessness affecting the people of Ashfield.”

 

Having been fully considered, the substantive motion was then put to the vote and it was

 

RESOLVED

that Council agrees to:-

 

a)    continue to review the option of using the EDMO powers, where those powers are deemed the most appropriate and effective in bringing empty properties back in use in Ashfield;

 

b)    examine the use of alternative powers, such as those of Enforced Sales, for empty properties; a process less involved and able to deal with those exceptionally poor properties that are outside the scope of an EDMO;

 

c)    acknowledge the recognition within the new Homelessness Act that prevention of homelessness is the key and that the lack of support for those facing homelessness is a major factor to be addressed;

 

d)    continue to work with national and local authorities, agencies and stakeholders to provide that support, wherever possible, aimed at preventing homelessness affecting the people of Ashfield.

 

(During consideration of the motion, Councillors Rachel Madden, Chris Baron, Helen Hollis and John Knight left the room at 8.28 p.m., 8.28 p.m., 8.32 p.m. and 8.47 p.m. and returned to the meeting at 8.29 p.m., 8.32 p.m., 8.34 p.m. and 8.49 p.m. respectively.  Councillor Joanne Donnelly also left the meeting at 8.41 p.m.)