Empty Property

Strategy Framework




Lead Member for Housing Services Foreword

Key Partner Support for Strategy

Chapter 1 - Introduction

- The Problem

-  The Existing Strategy

-  The Review Process

Chapter 2 - Background Information

- Strategic Context

-  Area Regeneration

-  The Government’s Perspective

-  Key Partners

Chapter 3 - Statistical Information

- Definition

-  National Comparison

-  Regional Comparison

-  Local Context

-  Best Value

Chapter 4 - Interventions & Performance Monitoring

-  Current Procedure & Interventions

-  Legislation

-  Performance Monitoring

- Resources & Funding

-  Strategic Links

Chapter 5 - Resources & Funding

-  Previous Funding

-  Current Funding

-  Anticipated Funding

Chapter 6 - Consultation & Partner Engagement

Chapter 7 - Response to new Strategy & Action Plan

-  Review Arrangements



The Problem

Currently Salford has in the region 5, 500 privately owned empty properties of which it is estimated that 3, 830 have been vacant for 6 months or longer resulting in a waste of valuable housing resource and creating a blight on the local community in terms of the visual impact and associated neighbourhood nuisance. [Source : Salford City Council Empty Property Database, April 2002].

The Existing Strategy

The high numbers of empty properties in Salford has highlighted the need to review the existing strategy and review the tools available to the Council to assist reducing the numbers of empty homes in Salford.

The existing strategy currently focuses on one sector for dealing with empty properties those in the private sector. The existing strategy was drafted in 1998 and now needs to be updated to reflect the changes in neighbourhood renewal and regeneration such as the pending housing market renewal initiative to deliver a new range of intervention tools to support bringing empty properties back into use and to support homeownership and home improvement .

This Strategy document has four functions;

·  To review the existing strategy currently used by the Council for dealing with the problem of empty properties throughout Salford.

·  To ensure the new strategy is cross tenure and includes all other sectors such as Registered Social Landlords, Public sector – New Prospect Housing Limited, Private sector and Voluntary sector.

·  To identify a new approaches to reducing the number of empty homes in Salford.

·  To be a supporting strategy to the wider Housing strategy and other relevant strategies and programmes.

The Review Process

As part of this review process, the Council launched an Empty Property Strategy Working Group in October 2003 to assist in the development of the new strategy. The working group is made up of key partners from all sectors that are vital in terms of taking positive action to reduce the number of empty properties in Salford. Members of the group include:

·  New Prospect Housing Ltd (arms length management company)

·  Fire Brigade

·  SCC Enforcement Team

·  SCC Landlord Accreditation Team

·  SCC Burglary Reduction Team

·  SCC Council Tax Department

·  SCC Building Control Department

·  Irwell Valley Housing Association

·  Portico Housing Association

·  Homechoice (private developer/estate agent)

Key Objectives

Through discussions with the group a set of key objectives were agreed to form the basis of the new strategy. The agreed objectives are as follows:

·  To identify the key drivers of vacancy in all sectors

·  To use targeted enforcement to show that long term empty properties are not tolerated in Salford. In line with the Enforcement Strategy

·  To develop a co-ordinated approach through a range of interventions with all key partners to deliver the empty property strategy

·  To work towards a sustainable end use (where necessary)

·  To support area regeneration programmes

·  To ensure the housing needs are met within Salford

·  To provide good quality affordable housing for all

·  To ensure the strategy provides a strategic fit with other corporate and partner agencies objectives



Strategic Context

The Salford Partnership, our accredited Local Strategic Partnership, has a clear Vision for Salford:

“To create a city where people choose to live and work. We aim to improve the quality of life for all our citizens….”

In addition to this vision, the Council has 6 pledges to help to deliver the Council’s Mission Statement

“To create the best quality of life for the people of Salford”.

The 6 pledges are as follows:

Pledge 1 / Better education for all
Pledge 2 / Quality homes for all
Pledge 3 / A clean and healthy City
Pledge 4 / A safer Salford
Pledge 5 / Stronger communities
Pledge 6 / Support for young people

Table 2 – Salford City Council Pledges

4 of the 6 pledges are relevant to the issue of empty homes pledges 2 to 5. Empty homes impact on the achievement of these pledges and perception of the Council’s performance to improve the situation in the following ways.

·  Pledge 2 – To return to use a home that meets all current housing standards and current housing needs

·  Pledge 3 – To respond to all service requests relating to accumulated rubbish and health and safety issues that may put the public health at risk.

·  Pledge 4 - To respond to all service requests relating to property open to unauthorised access and reducing the risk of vandalism and local neighbourhood nuisance associated with empty properties.

·  Pledge 5 – In responding to communities needs to see local problems resolved helps to develop and strengthen community pride and ownership of their area in a positive way rather than feeling let down, isolated or living in fear.

In addition to the Vision and Pledges, Salford’s Housing Strategy 2003 – 2005 includes a key priority to ‘ work with a wide range of partners to reduce unfit and empty private sector housing by at least a third by 2004’.

Area Regeneration

In order to address private sector disrepair and unfitness, the Council currently has a number of area based regeneration initiatives including the declaration of Neighbourhood Renewal Areas of Eccles, Seedley Village, Duchy, Weaste and the Eccles New Road area.

Within these areas a wide range of interventions are used including individual grants, group repair schemes, selective clearance, targeted crime reduction and physical environment improvements.

In addition to these declared renewal areas above, the following established initiatives are being utilised to help identify and implement ways of bringing properties back into use as part of wider programmes.

·  Single Regeneration Budget

·  New Deal for Communities

·  Housing Market Renewal funding is also being utilised by the Council. Such funding is being targeted towards areas such as Seedley Village, Higher Broughton, Charlestown and Lower Kersal

The Government’s Perspective

The issue of empty homes is currently high on the government’s agenda. In the Government’s Response to the Transport, Local Government and the Regions Select Committee’s Sixth Report on Empty Homes long-term vacant dwellings are described as

‘ a waste of resources, and at worst a blight on the lives of individuals and whole communities’.

It is further stated in this particular report that in areas of high demand, properties remain vacant ‘through the inaction of owners’ whereas properties in areas of low demand are ‘symptoms of neighbourhood decline and wider problems such as an imbalance between housing supply and demand’.

In May 2002 the ODPM launched a document titled ‘Empty Property: Unlocking the Potential – a case for action’ as a result of recommendations put forward by the Empty Property Advisory Group established in 1999 by the Government. The Group recommended that some form of comprehensive guidance was required to assist local council’s and agencies in achieving the reuse and successful conversion of vacant properties. As a result an implementation handbook was also launched in 1999. The group recommended 4 good practice steps in the handbook to achieve successful empty property work:

Table 3 – ODPM Implementation Handbook May 2002, Key Steps to Successful Empty Property Work

Step 1 / Map the problem of empty properties in the area and prioritise investment according to area requirements
Step 2 / Develop Empty Property Strategy as a working document according to mapping exercise and priorities identified
Step 3 / Deliver strategy using:
- Specialised team/skills/training
-  Authority working group/task force
-  Regional forum/share best practise
-  Partnership working
Step 4 / Evaluate outcomes to feed back into strategy to improve service and success rate

Key Partners

The new approach of the revised strategy is to address the problem of empty properties on a cross tenure basis and involves a range of key partners from diverse backgrounds including internal departments of the council such as council tax sections , building control, empty property and enforcement teams and external agencies such as The Empty Homes Agency, National Association of Empty Property Practitioners. A more detailed list can be found in Appendix A.

Salford Council have worked closely with the Empty Homes Agency and National Association of Empty Property Practioners (NEAPP) with the development of the Compulsory Leasing concept providing the practice of a potential model scheme. The work of the Council has contributed significantly to the feasibility and operation of the proposed Empty Homes Management Orders the ODPM consulted nationally on through the consultation document ‘Empty Homes: Temporary Management, lasting Solutions’ July 2003.

Team members from the Manchester/Salford Housing Market Renewal Pathfinders have met to discuss the transfer of good practice processes, procedures and knowledge relating to CPO’s and Enforced Sale procedures relating to a proactive enforcement policy of empty properties and neighbourhood management issues in the form a responsive service that addresses the short term securing against unauthorised access and removal of public health nuisances, and includes a procurement route for managing resources as part of managing neighbourhoods through change until wider housing plans are formed.




Salford has been faced with growing numbers of empty properties due to several contributing factors and changes in the housing market over the last decade. Salford’s issues surrounding empty properties has been well documented in key areas of the City such as Central Salford and areas such as Seedley & Langworthy and the 8 neighbourhoods identified as part of the HMR area. Property prices in low demand areas have fallen to such an extent that it has caused entire communities to leave and remaining homeowners have been left with mortgage debt greater than the value of their house.

In West of Salford individual empty properties have been found in high demand area’s and have caused similar neighbourhood problems as those in low demand areas being subject to crime and producing a negative impact on surrounding neighbourhoods.

To assist with understanding what is defined as an empty property the definitions below shall be used. These have been taken from the Government’s terminology in categorising empty properties from the consultation document and will be used through out this strategy to ensure consistent approach when interpreting empty property information.

Definition of an Empty Property

For the purposes of the strategy and for monitoring purposes, the definition of an empty property is termed to be:

·  A residential property that has been empty for 6 months or more


·  A residential property that does not have a reasonable prospect of being brought back into use by the owner working alone,

This does not include properties that are second homes, holiday homes or student accommodation all of which are excluded from this document.

National Comparison

It is estimated that on a national basis there were 729, 770 empty cross tenure residential properties in England as of April 2002 of this figure 6.72% are located within the Salford borough. This compares with other Greater Manchester area as being in line with current empty property trends.

[Source: National Statistics, Empty Homes Agency Website, HIP Returns 2002].

Of this figure 310, 000 are considered to be long-term empty properties (i.e. vacant for 6 months or more) that is equivalent to a city the size of Leeds [Source: ODPM Guidance, Empty Property: Unlocking the Potential – a case for action].

Regional Comparison

Table 4 shows a regional comparison of Salford as having the second highest number of empty properties after Manchester in the Greater Manchester area. Table 4 below also shows that Salford also has the second highest number of council voids and second highest private landlord voids on a regional basis.

Table 4 - Summary of Ownership of Empty Properties in Greater Manchester Area as of 1st April 2002

Local Authority/Borough / Total Empty Homes / Ownership Details/Tenure
Local Council / RSL / Private Landlord / Private Homes Empty for 6mths or more
Bolton / 5, 695 / 778 / 178 / 4, 739 / 2, 890
Bury / 2, 855 / 232 / 45 / 2, 578 / 1, 208
Manchester / 13, 704 / 1, 775 / 1, 173 / 10, 748 / 6, 586
Oldham / 4, 655 / 835 / 181 / 3, 638 / 2, 407
Rochdale / 4, 776 / 369 / 215 / 3, 510 / 1, 855
Salford / 6, 778 / 1, 312 / 207 / 5, 259 / 5, 142
Stockport / 4, 578 / 736 / 124 / 3, 709 / 2, 175
Tameside / 4, 212 / 0 / 753 / 3, 159 / 1, 318
Trafford / 2, 547 / 223 / 218 / 2, 106 / *
Wigan / 4, 745 / 750 / 121 / 3, 865 / 2, 187

[Source: Housing Investment Returns provided by Local Authorities to ODPM]

Local Context

As referred to in Chapter 1, it is estimated that there are 3, 830 privately owned empty residential properties in Salford that are considered to be long-term empty properties a large proportion are situated in central Salford within the Housing Market Renewal area. The reason for each of these properties remaining vacant for over 6 months and often in excess of 12 months varies greatly. Table 3 below shows the vacancy trends by ward for Salford.

Ward / Oct 02 / Sept 03 / % Points Change /
Barton / 4.9 % / 5.0% / 0.1%
Blackfriars / 8.4 % / 8.1% / -0.2%


/ 14.1% / 13.3% / -0.9 %


/ 3.9% / 4.0% / 0.1%


/ 5.3% / 5.4% / 0.1%


/ 6.1 % / 5.9% / -0.2%


/ 2.8% / 2.4% / -0.4%
Kersal / 8.1% / 7.8% / -0.3%