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A project that aims to reduce the number of empty properties in North Devon and provide more homes for residents has been launched by North Devon Council. 

At a meeting of the council's Strategy and Resources Committee today (Monday 6 June), it was decided that the council will embark on the Empty Homes Project, which sets out to reduce the number of long term empty homes in North Devon, increase the housing supply in the district and tackle empty property nuisance issues.

The council says it will achieve a reduction in empty homes by offering incentives to the owners of these properties, such as home improvement loans, the opportunity to lease their properties through the council and matchmaker scheme connecting potential purchasers, investors and developers with owners of empty homes. It will also offer a wealth of advice and information on letting properties privately, the repercussions of leaving a property empty, turning a holiday home back into a permanent residential use property and how to gain planning permission to change the use of a commercial property to a dwelling.

Through information, advice, help and support, the council hopes empty property owners will work with them to bring homes back into use. However, the council will seek to quickly escalate the use of regulatory interventions such as management orders, enforced sales and compulsory purchases if owners of empty homes do not bring their properties back into use.

Lead Member for Housing at North Devon Council, Councillor Nicola Topham says: "Our Empty Homes project is one of the initiatives we are taking as a council to address the housing crisis in North Devon.

"There is so much to be gained by bringing properties that are sitting empty back into use, both for the community but also for the owner of the properties which, whilst sitting empty, can fall into disrepair. Bringing empty homes back into use will provide additional homes for our residents and improve our neighbourhoods by targeting properties that have become the focus of antisocial behaviour or neglect.

"Our Empty Homes team will be working closely with the Housing Options team to provide homes for homeless people and reduce the cost of expensive temporary accommodation."

The council is already embarking on tackling empty homes, and is currently taking action to bring a long-term empty home in Ilfracombe back into use. Planning legislation has been used to serve notices requiring improvements to the building and, as the notices have not been complied with, the council is now are in the process of undertaking the work specified, with the owner being liable to pay the costs.

Contractors who may be interested in undertaking works on empty properties in the future are asked to sign up with the council’s procurement portal at www.supplyingthesouthwest.org.uk. Contractors can email supplyingndc@northdevon.gov.uk with any queries.

Information and advice on the Empty Homes project, including how to report an empty home and advice for home owners, is now available on the council's website at www.northdevon.gov.uk/empty-homes