"I have long argued that the giving of offence, and even hate speech, should be a moral matter but not a matter for the criminal law. That is as true on the football pitch as on the streets. We should always challenge racism. We should also always challenge attacks on liberties in the guise of faux antiracism." Kenan Malik

Empty Homes Problem For Norwich

More than 500 private homes in Norwich have been standing empty for more than six months, new figures have revealed – while more than 9,600 people are waiting on lists to get council homes.

But Norwich City Council insists it is ahead of the game when it comes to getting empty private homes back into use, with pioneering orders to force landlords to get them back into use made more frequently in the city than anywhere else in the country.

New figures show that by the end of December last year the number of empty homes had fallen on the previous year – from 613 to 517.

While that means 1.4pc of homes in the city have been empty for more than six months, the city council says it has pioneered the use of new powers to get them back into use.

In 2007 the city council, which has 9,643 on the waiting list for council homes, became one of the first authorities in the country to issue an Empty Dwelling Management Order (EDMO) on a landlord whose home had become rundown.

The house, in Churchill Road, had an interim order placed on it, resulting in the landlord selling the property which was subsequently renovated and reoccupied.

Since then the council has issued six EDMOs, with a decision on another one due next week. A further four were prepared but the properties were re-occupied by the owners when they received notification of the council’s intention to apply for an order.

An EDMO allows a local authority to step into the shoes of the owner of a dwelling unoccupied for six months or more, where the owner is not intending to re-occupy it.

It allows a local authority to secure occupation and proper management of privately owned houses and flats that have been unoccupied to carry out works to make the property fit to occupy and can also let the property.

Brenda Arthur, executive member for housing and adult services, said: “We have had an officer exclusively on this and managed resources to help return homes to use, using the carrot and stick approach.

“We try very hard to work with landlords and point them towards grants which can help them, but the carrot does not work we are not afraid to use the stick.

“Twenty per cent of all EDMOs in the country have been used in Norwich and, as an authority, we are committed to bringing in as many homes back into use, because we recognise there is a need for housing.”

But Antony Little, leader of the Conservative group at City Hall, said: “With so many people on the waiting lists or wanting affordable housing, more should be done to bring these back into use.

“In fact we spend so much time on fixing the problems of council houses that we lose sight of other potential family homes that could be brought back into use.”

The latest annual Halifax Empty Homes survey, published last November, showed were 303,285 long-term empty private homes in England in April 2008, a rise of 9pc from 279,281 in April 2007, with national average of 1.6pc private homes empty for six months or more.



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