In September 2013 the Department for Social Development launched its new Empty Homes Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2018 which is being delivered in partnership with the NI Housing Executive.
Figures provided by Land & Property Services in the Department of Finance and Personnel indicate that there are approximately 32,000 empty properties in Northern Ireland. In order to maximise all opportunities to meet housing need, reduce blight and tackle antisocial behaviour, the rejuvenation of empty homes is imperative.
One of the main challenges to bringing empty homes back into use is establishing the ownership of such properties and it is important that all relevant organisations work closely together in providing details on empty properties to the NI Housing Executive’s Empty Homes Unit which has recently been set up. In addition to creating a central database to record all the relevant information and action taken on empty homes, the unit is also setting up a website to provide information and action taken on empty homes and make it easier for people to report empty properties. To this end the Housing Executive has started to work closely with Councils in order to raise the profile of empty homes and to gain their co-operation in identifying and reporting information on empty homes.
NIFHA would urge housing associations to co-operate with this scheme in order to tackle the issues illustrated above and would encourage members to report any empty properties that they become aware of, which are not in its ownership, to the NI Housing Executive. The website address for the NIHE Empty Homes Unit is www.emptyhomesni.com or alternatively, the contact telephone number is 03448 920 900.