Landlords to be encouraged to let empty homes to key workers

Friday 19 February 2021

Owners of empty or under-utilised properties in Kensington and Chelsea are being asked to bring them back into use to help tackle the borough’s housing shortage.

Kensington and Chelsea Council will be contacting landlords of empty homes to encourage them to offer the properties to those in need at a subsidised rate – particularly key workers who have played such a significant role on the frontline of the pandemic. The authority will also work with landlords to find tenants and ensure that tenancies are managed efficiently.

It comes as the Council develops a strategy to bring more empty homes back into use. One out of every 40 homes is identified as empty in a borough with the highest land values in the United Kingdom and average house prices of £1.4m.

The strategy will include trialling the use of legislative tools such as Empty Dwellings Management Orders (EDMOs) and forceable sales to bring properties back into use. The Council will also be renewing its campaign to make EDMO legislation easier to use, having previously raised the issue with the government in 2018.

Councillor Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader and Lead Member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment said:

“The paradox of empty homes in a borough with such a high level of housing need is not lost on us.

“Key workers have been travelling from across London to keep our essential services going in the pandemic and I would love to be able to bring empty homes back into use to give them a local housing option. I hope to tap into the wonderful philanthropy of the borough to achieve this, working collaboratively with landlords who may not currently be receiving any rent for their properties.

“In severe circumstances where landlords refuse to engage, we need the law to help us and we’ll be asking the government to reconsider our ask for more local powers.”

Chris Bailey, Campaign Manager with the charity Action on Empty Homes, said:

“In National Empty Homes Week, it’s great to see the Kensington and Chelsea continuing to take on the issue of empty homes seriously.

“During the pandemic, long-term empty homes rose by 20 per cent, while 100,000 homeless families wait for suitable homes in temporary accommodation. We hope Government will see that it’s time for change.

“The Council is working to use the powers and incentives available today, but critically it is also looking forward to the changes to legislation and regulations which it and many other councils have long campaigned for.”