Grand designs for derelict buildings: Can empty properties solve the housing crisis?
Could empty properties hold the key to easing the demand for sustainable and affordable housing, at a time when the need far outstrips supply in many areas across Wales?
There are around 27,000 long-term empty private properties in Wales, according to recent estimates, and around 1,400 long-term empty properties in the social housing sector.
The National Assembly's Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee has launched a consultation to explore if enough is being done to unlock their potential for the benefit of the community. An online survey, on the National Assembly website, allows the public to contribute to the consultation.
John Griffiths AM, chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, says:
"Lack of affordable housing has become an urgent issue. Meanwhile thousands of buildings remain empty across Wales with some falling in to a serious state of disrepair.
"We want to find out the extent to which empty properties impact on the supply of affordable housing in Wales. We want to know the challenges faced by local authorities, and to what extent they have sufficient legislative powers to deal with the problem.
"We also want to see examples of best practice in turning empty properties into affordable, energy efficient homes, to see if it can be replicated elsewhere."
As well as impacting on the housing market, empty properties can cause numerous problems for neighbours. Neglected buildings often attract anti-social behaviour, and poor upkeep can cause damage, such as damp, to adjoining properties, as well as stalling local house prices which, in turn, contribute to the general decline of an area.
The reasons why properties remain empty for long periods are numerous and complex. Some owners may lack the time, money or motivation to renovate a building. In other cases, properties may be inherited and the new owners live far away. If it's a commercial property, owners may choose not to sell or let out the living space above. And sometimes, it's simply not possible to trace the legal owners.
The committee will want to explore these issues during the consultation, and they will extend an invitation to individuals and community representatives, as well as to housing charities and associations to come forward to give their take on the situation and discuss solutions.
The survey as part of the consultation will be published here on Friday 26 April: http://senedd.assembly.wales/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?ID=355