Council looking to tackle growing temporary accommodation costs
Merton Council offices
Nearly 5,000 homes in Merton are lying empty as the capital faces a housing crisis.
A Merton Council report shows that there are a total of 4,928 properties across the borough which have been sitting empty for six or more consecutive months.
Of this number, nearly 1,500 are second homes, which are unoccupied but furnished.
The 20-page report examines ways the authority could make Merton more equal, tackle poverty and provide quality affordable housing. It is set to be discussed by Merton Council on Wednesday night (21 September).
At the end of April, there were 230 people living in temporary accommodation in Merton, up from 197 the year before. Each year this costs the council around £3.5 million which it said could be reduced if empty homes are brought back into use.
The local authority is considering starting an empty homes scheme in a bid to free up the empty homes. It said bringing property back into use can also address “associated crime, antisocial behaviour, and street scene
The scheme would involve contacting the owners of the properties but second homes would be excluded from this. It could include incentives, such as grant funding for repairs for landlords to bring properties up to standard to rent out – But the report warned that a scheme like this can be costly to operate.
The report said, “As of March 31, 2021, the number of empty properties in Merton was 4,928. Of these 1,470 were second homes (unoccupied but furnished) and would not be considered under an empty homes scheme.
“Profiling the empty homes in the borough forms part of the cost-benefit analysis to inform a scheme viability assessment. Consultation with owners of empty properties is also a requirement, to gauge the likelihood of owners’ engagement with a scheme.”
The council considered a report on the topic in 2020 but work on a possible empty homes scheme was stalled by the pandemic. A further update is expected to be presented to the council’s cabinet in October.
Tara O'Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
September 26, 2022