OWNERS of empty residential properties in Craven are being urged to bring them back into use as part of this week's national empty homes week.

Empty homes week, which runs until Sunday, aims to bring empty homes back into use by highlighting the options available to property owners.

Craven District Council says it has worked hard during the last two years of the coronavirus pandemic to get empty properties back into use.

At the start of the pandemic, there were 74 private properties in Craven, not including 'second homes' that had been empty for more than two years.

Since then, the council has focused its efforts on returning them to use, and has managed to reduce the number by around 20 per cent to 60.

Success was achieved with the adoption of a new Empty Homes Strategy in 2019, followed by the appointing of a specialist, dedicated empty homes officer to deal with the challenge.

It says the reasons properties remain empty are many and complex. It has worked closely with owners and communities to turn these properties into much-needed homes for residents.

Councillor Richard Foster, leader of Craven District Council, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource, particularly in areas such as Craven where there is a shortage of housing and significant market demand and affordable housing need.

“Empty homes also pose other problems for local authorities, owners, communities and the environment. They can blight an area and area often magnets for vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”

Sometimes there are empty properties that are unknown to the council, which might be causing concern for the local community. Residents can report an empty property to the council’s empty homes officer, Bharat Mistry, who will investigate further and contact the property owner and explain the options available.

As a last resort, when homes are left empty and owners are not proactive in returning them to use, the council can make a compulsory purchase order under Section 17 of the 1985 Housing Act.

Cllr Foster added: “There is no reason for a property to remain empty for two years or more in Craven. Any property will sell at a value that reflects its condition. The refurbishment of properties that are often in serious disrepair improves and adds to the housing stock and may ultimately reduce the number of new build homes needed.”

Anyone wishing to contact the council’s empty homes officer, Bharat Mistry, should call 01756 700600.