CLOSE partnership working between Argyll and Bute Council’s Housing and Council Tax teams on an innovative policy to deal with empty homes has netted national recognition and a silver award.
The team took a silver award at the national Institute of Revenues, Ratings and Valuations (IRRV) Performance Awards 2014 for their entry to the Excellence in Innovation category.
The Housing and Council Tax teams work closely together on a set of empty homes initiatives. Part of a council policy agreed in August 2013, these are aimed at bringing empty homes back into use and therefore increasing the level of affordable housing available to people in communities across Argyll and Bute. Since the policy came into force, the teams have brought 539 empty properties back to life in Argyll and Bute.
The initiatives which help the team work with property owners include incentives like refurbishment grants or low cost loans on the condition that the property is made available for affordable rent, alongside double council tax on houses which have been left empty in the long term. There is also a dedicated Empty Homes Officer who works alongside owners and helps them find the right way of releasing their property back into the market for much-needed affordable housing.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Director for Customer Services, Douglas Hendry, said: “The success of this policy is due in no small part to the close joint working of the two council teams, sharing information and making sure that everyone – owners and the local community – know about the benefits that this can bring. The approach is validated by this national recognition as a an example of innovative practice.
“What is most important, of course, is that this brings real results – that local people have more options when it comes to finding affordable homes. Five hundred and thirty homes brought back into use is an excellent achievement and this national award reflects the teams’ hard work.”