HOMEOWNERS in Fareham could be loaned cash by the council in a bid to reduce the number of empty houses across the borough.
There are 998 empty properties across the area, including 240 classed as long-term vacant properties because they have been empty for more than six months.
With more than 2,000 people on the housing waiting list, Fareham Borough Council has announced plans to offer financial incentives to the owners of these 240 homes through interest-free loans.
The money would be spent on improving the property to render it fit to live in so it could then be rented out.
Council leader Sean Woodward, said: ‘There are more people in Fareham who own their own homes or have them on mortgages then any other town in the country, bar one.
‘All of the other towns have more houses available for rent.
‘Yet we have 240 long term vacant properties in the borough.
‘It’s not an enormous amount but that’s 240 too many and we want to see these homes being used.’
Cllr Woodward said there were around 2,000 families on the housing waiting list in the borough.
‘We don’t want to have any empty homes,’ he added.
‘There are a number of things which can help put these homes back into use.
‘We could take away the empty homes council tax discount.
‘We just want to see these houses used.’
A budget of £100,000 will be allocated from the council’s housing capital programme which will be
on loan to homeowners and eventually paid back in monthly instalments.
Owners will also be asked for permission to use properties as temporary accommodation for homeless people.
The council has a target of bringing a minimum of 10 empty homes per year back into use.
Cllr Woodward said that if some owners did not take any action to bring properties back into use, then the council would be prepared to use legislation.
He said that this could allow officers to seize properties for the council to renovate itself before letting them out for rent.
The council will discuss the empty homes strategy at a meeting of the executive at the civic offices on Monday evening.
HOUSING LIST GROWS
The new strategy comes as the numbers of people on the housing list continue to rise.
The council already has plans to build 7,000 homes in the north of the borough.
The development, known as the North Fareham strategic development area (SDA), would see new homes built on greenfields north of Fareham, between the M27 and Wickham.
Thousands of people signed a petition against the plans when they were first announced.
Last year, a government inspector released a report on the core strategy, revealing that he found it to be ‘sound’ after a public inquiry last May.