A campaign to bring back empty properties into use could bring income to landlords and increase the value of neighbouring houses.

A new campaign is launched today to combat the increasing problem of empty homes in the area, homes that would significantly reduce the homelessness issue in the borough if they were inhabitable. An estimated 500 houses in Chiswick and Gunnersbury lie empty, houses that are losing hundreds of thousands of pounds of rental income for owners and causing misery for neighbours.

A Council spokesman said, "Chiswick residents could be losing thousands of the value of their home because of derelict houses in their streets".

The campaign to bring these empty homes back into use will be focusing on Empty Homes Grants. These grants, of up to £15,000, are available to owners needing to carry out works to empty properties. In return for the grant, owners allow the council to rent the house for 5 years, providing a guaranteed income.

One man taking advantage of the grant scheme is John Joyce. Mr Joyce bought a derelict house in Isleworth with the intention of renting it out privately but came to the council when he found out about the scheme.

Currently going through the grants process, Mr Joyce said “the house is in a very bad state, needing a new kitchen and bathroom, new windows and roof repairs. These are quite substantial works and it is great to have the help of the council. I am also pleased to know that, once the works are finished, I will have a guaranteed and regular income from the council. It’s terrible that there are so many empty houses around when they could be put to such good use.”

Cllr Khwaja, Lead Member for Housing on the Council’s Executive, said, “Empty homes can cause huge problems, especially in terms of the crime and anti social behaviour they attract and the additional cost to society of housing people in temporary accommodation when houses are standing empty. By bringing homes back into use we can start to ease the current housing shortage and put even more effort into tackling the problems of homelessness.”

Gareth Turner, Empty Homes Officer for Hounslow Council, thinks that last year’s figure should be beaten. Gareth said “residents can help to improve neighbourhoods and bring these homes back into use by letting me know of any empty homes in their local areas. I can then track down the owners of the homes and let them know about the scheme, or encourage owners to make their homes available to rent. The opportunity for rent means that everyone can win from this scheme, owners, landlords and residents. Residents can call me on 020 8583 3863.”

The Empty Homes Agency, a national charity that deals specifically with empty homes, estimates that 4% of all homes in the country are empty. Many of these are temporarily empty but an increasing number remain empty for a number of months, and even years. Age and weather damage means that they become uninhabitable.

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