Plan to tackle Harrogate district's 900 empty properties with new fund

Harrogate Borough Council.
Harrogate Borough Council.

Harrogate Borough Council will be able to call on an £800,000 funding pot to enable the purchase of up to two empty homes at any given time, in a bid to bring abandoned dwellings back in to use.

It comes as a council report revealed that 911 empty properties have been identified across the district; with 686 of these vacant for between six months and two years.

Another 225 have been empty and unfurnished for more than two years and consequently classified as long-term empty homes.

Of that 225, 38 have been empty for more than ten years.

The move to establish the funding, formally named the Empty Homes Budget and Empty Homes Loan, was approved by Cabinet members at a meeting in June.

The council will also be able to offers loans to the owners of empty homes to help renovate or repair the properties to help make them habitable again.

The £800,000 pot reflected housing prices in the district, with the council's report stating semi-detached properties sold for an average of £295,000 over the last year.

Terraced properties had an average sale price of £260,768 and detached properties averaged £520,076.

Harrogate, with an overall average price of £324,205, was similar in terms of sold prices to nearby Knaresborough (£308,374) and Spofforth (£325,132), but was cheaper than Pannal (£454,674).

Cabinet member for planning, Coun Rebecca Burnett, said while planning policy and the local plan could be relied upon to dictate affordable housing levels, this policy would ensure "small scale" action could be undertaken as well.

Council leader Richard Cooper added the move was a "key commitment" from the Conservatives' election manifesto, and would address the issue of "people who have left their properties empty for years and years and deprived other people of housing in the Borough".

The £800,000 funding pot has been included in the latest update of the council's capital and investment programme, which is set to be presented for approval at a full council meeting on July 17.

According to the council report, £600,000 of the fund will be covered by the capital receipts from the sales of the properties, with the remaining £200,000 coming from the Housing Business Unit Reserve, which was previously ring-fenced for compulsory purchase orders and voluntary purchases.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter