More than 400 homes are empty

MORE than 400 homes in Boston have been empty for more than six months, according to council tax figures.

Statistics from October 2011 – the latest available – show that the borough is home to 411 long-term empty properties, with 290 of those vacant for more than a year.

The number represents yet another issue contributing to the deepening housing crisis in the area, which has led to many people being unable to afford a home or even access decent housing.

With many mortgage lenders requiring a deposit of at least 20 per cent, the average first-time buyer in Boston faces around seven years of scrimping and saving before they can get together a deposit for even the cheapest houses in the area – and there are not many of them.

Experts have said more new homes are needed to solve the problem, but with this amount of empty homes, others would say they should be brought back into use as well.

Almost 250 of the empty homes in Boston are owned by private landlords.

Many of the others are owned by registered social landlords, including housing association Boston Mayflower and Longhurst.

Nathan Black, spokesman for Mayflower, which owns 31 homes which are currently not in use, explained these consist of: “Thirteen Prefabricated bungalows in Boston, which are vacant due to on-going refurbishment work being carried out on them, one property in Sutterton, which is empty due to it being for sale subject to contract and 17 sheltered accommodation properties, which are vacant due to on-going refurbishment work being carried out on them.”

Boston Borough Council is working with other bodies in Lincolnshire to bring the homes – which are empty for a number of reasons – back into use, with the help of a Government grant to support providing homes.

Andy Fisher, head of housing, property and communities at the authority, said: “Returning empty homes into use is something councillors are keen to explore in light of the New Homes Bonus the council receives.”

He added that more work had been planned for the new year.

Homes can fall into disuse for a number of reasons, including the landlord lacking the funds to refurbish the property to bring it up to scratch for rental, and a bad housing market making it difficult to sell a property.

According to the Lincolnshire Empty Homes Strategy: “These homes are not only a wasted resource in a time of housing need, but have an increasingly negative effect on the community.”