The Empty Homes Awards were presented at the 2018 Conference in Birmingham on 18th October, and we'll be recognising the various award winners in news items over the next few days.
First up are the winners of the Empty Homes Practitioner of the Year Award, sponsored by Kent No Use Empty.
There were two winner this year and we think they each deserve their own story. Today, we are recognising the achievement of Sue Li.
Picture: Sue Li receives her certificate from Steve Grimshaw of Kent No Use Empty.
Sue won her award based on a submission that detailed her very substantial track record at Derby City Council, but it is worth mentioning that this follows on from a similarly impressive track record at Amber Valley Borough Council. Moreover, she has been a stalwart of the Empty Homes Network, serving on the Executive for many years and currently our Vice-Chair. She has also been a leading light of the East Midlands Empty Property Forum.
Sue put herself forward for having progressed the enforcement role within her authority, writing as follows:
- Introduced a system of prioritising properties for enforcement action (mainly CPO). This is based upon strategic priorities, such as housing stock requirements, debts owed, prominence and visual impact and local proportion of empty/occupied stock. This is fairer, has more strategic impact and helps serve more vulnerable communities that don't shout as loud as others.
- Asked Cabinet to resolve to CPO around 10 properties every year based upon use of the system above. It has always gained cross party support in an authority that has the potential to swing from party to party during each election cycle. Around 7-8 of these reach a negotiated solution and 2-3 progress through the formal cpo process
- I have a little CPO 'factory' and always have at least one at each of the stages – resolution, an order being made, an order confirmed and finally a property acquired. Previously, most were disposed of at auction but I'm working with the ALMO and Development Team to take on private sector properties and bring into use as affordable housing.
- I've taken the previous process and streamlined it to such effect that we have some capacity to consider smaller redundant commercial buildings being brought into use as affordable housing. This involved negotiations with Planning Policy and Development.
- Surprisingly, I had to introduce 'interim' enforcement action – the type of action that does not result in a property beinag brought into use but brings some relief to local communities – s215,PDPA, Building Act notices for example. I'm expanding a very narrow enforcement service into the full breadth that empty homes work ought to encompass.
- My cases over the last 2 years have recovered £139,300 of debt owed to the Council through care fees, council tax arrears and work in default costs being recovered. I have tightened up on systems that allowed some to wrongly claim council tax exemptions and pay nothing for a number of years.
- There is still more to do but I am pleased by the efficiencies and breadth that I have introduced to our empty property enforcement service over that last couple of years. It has benefitted not just the empty homes team but other council departments.
AWARD SPONSORED BY KENT NO USE EMPTY