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PRESS RELEASE - NEWHAM COUNCILS ACTION ON EMPTY HOMES

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					PRESS RELEASE - NEWHAM COUNCIL'S ACTION ON EMPTY HOMES


Embargoed until print date of Weds 31 May 2006.


'Newham Council is marking the LONDON WEEK OF ACTION ON EMPTY
PRIVATELY OWNED HOMES (5TH June - 9th June 2006) by drawing
residents attention to the almost 'criminal' numbers of privately owned
homes (and vacant plots of land having the potential for development as
new homes) that are laying empty in the Borough.

Council staff is currently dealing with some 900 cases and they know
this is just 'the tip of the iceberg'.

On 30 March 2006, the Mayor & Cabinet authorised the commencement
of formal action on the compulsory purchase of 98 properties/plots of
land. This means that that total number of cases referred through
Cabinet since 1998 is in excess of 370.

It is believed that Newham is dealing with more enforcement cases on
empty properties that most other Councils in the country- and certainly
more than any other London Borough. This isn't because Newham has a
bigger problem than other councils - simply that it has a 'zero tolerance'
policy. In most cases, once property owners realise that the Council are
serious and will take legal action, the buildings are brought back into
use without the Council having to actually take possession. Sadly,
others owners ignored the Council and subsequently lost their
properties.

Newham's Mayor said: " Residents who live near to empty homes have
first hand experience of the consequences of a home being left empty:

       Rubbish being dumped in the front garden of the empty home.
       The building looks shabby; is rundown or an eyesore;
       Windows get smashed.
       The constant fear of squatters.
       Vacant buildings attract anti-social behaviour such as arson
        attacks - the use of the building by prostitutes or by drug
        users.
       The negative effect empty homes have on the value of houses
        nearby (considered to be a devaluation of up to 15% in the
        worst cases).

Furthermore, it makes no sense for new homes to be built whilst so
many existing homes that have the potential for use lay empty."

The photographs show one example of a property that Newham
compulsorily purchased in April 2005. It had featured, in passing, on a
Channel 4 property programme. The purpose of the programme was to
show a private person starting out as a property developer. He had
bought a house along the road from this derelict property. The
programme showed the general area and included a shot of the empty
home. What the programme-makers didn’t realise was that Newham
Council already knew about the derelict property and was already some
way along the compulsory purchase path.

Following compulsory purchase action, Newham sold the house to
Toynbee Housing Association and its refurbishment is almost complete.
The house will then be let and the property, which has been neglected
over the past 20 years, should provide decent housing accommodation
for many years to come.

Newham has many success stories to tell about properties bought back
into use and land that is being developed to provide new homes.

As the host borough for the Olympics, Newham wishes to be seen in a
positive light. Empty homes, such as this, do not send out the image
Newham wishes to portray - one of regeneration and change.

If you have an empty property near you, you can report it to the Empty
Property Team on 020 8430 25278

(Photos of an empty, derelict house - before CPO action & after
refurbishment)