SHROPSHIRE’S 1,329 empty homes are a “significant wasted resource”, and councillors will consider recruiting a dedicated officer to bring them back into use.

A report for the Communities Overview Committee says there is currently less than one full-time equivalent employee allocated to deal with empty homes.

Regulatory Services Operations Manager Karen Collier writes that creating a £36,000-a-year post and providing specialist property law advice is a “longer-term sustainable option”. Funding is no longer available for the previous practice of giving incentive grants, she adds.

She writes: “Returning empty homes back to use can have a positive impact on the local community, providing much needed homes and improving the street scene and reducing anti-social behaviour.

“There is limited resource allocated to the empty homes function – 0.9 FTE, which also carries out other private rented sector housing functions.

“There is an opportunity to increase the staffing resource using existing capital funding for empty homes”

“Capital funding was previously used for incentive grants to encourage the return to use of empty properties. Across Shropshire this returned 19 empty properties to use and created 16 new dwellings.

“The ongoing funding ceased and, therefore, the service has prioritised the remaining capital funding to support escalated enforcement action as a longer-term sustainable option.

“It aims to do this through the appointment of a temporary officer and the funding of specialist legal advice, if this is recommended by legal services.

“A two-year temporary contract for a band-11 professional officer would be £71,868 plus on-costs.”

Ms Collier recommends the 10-member committee supports her department’s proposal to appoint such an officer.

“As of January 1, 2019, there were 1,329 long-term empty properties in Shropshire. These are residential properties which have been empty for at least six months,” she writes.

“There are many reasons why properties may become empty, such as the owner being in care, the owner having a lack of skills or finances to manage the property, legal issues, inability to sell, imprisonment or a fear of renting.”

Local authorities can reduce the number of empty homes through compulsory purchase orders, empty dwelling management orders and the enforced sales procedure.