Council approves new policy to speed up enforcement and free up affordable homes.

A NEW strategy has been adopted to try to tackle the number of empty homes in North Devon.

Across the district, around 500 homes have been empty for more than 12 months, while more than 2,800 people are currently on the housing register, waiting for a home.

North Devon Council hopes the Empty Homes Policy will streamline enforcement and help create more affordable housing.

Executive member for housing, Cllr Faye Webber, said: “This new policy will provide us with a method to identify and help bring back into use these empty homes.

“It also gives us additional powers to deal with any problems that may occur as a result of a property being empty for a long time.

“It will generate income for landlords who let their properties out and also increase the number of rented homes available in North Devon. I think we need to do all we can to help young families who can not afford to buy.”

The policy sets out how the council will have a co-ordinated approach to identifying empty properties, by working with various council services and other external agencies.

By providing support, it will then encourage home owners to make their properties available for people in housing need. In exceptional circumstances, enforcement action may also be considered, such as Empty Dwelling Management Orders or compulsory purchases.

The decision by the council’s executive committee to adopt the new policy follows a six-week public consultation earlier this year. It will now be incorporated into the council’s Private Sector Renewal Strategy for 2012-15.