Carlisle Green Party Chairman says ‘frustration’ is mounting over empty houses in Castle District

A council has again come under fire for the empty house issue in Carlisle, with a neighborhood at the center of the dispute.

Potential Carlisle Castle Ward candidate Gavin Hawkton said residents of Carlisle’s Castle Ward were becoming “increasingly frustrated” with the number of empty houses on their streets.

The main concerns of residents, he added, are that empty properties could attract anti-social behavior and become a “bane of communities”.

“The number of empty houses has remained stubbornly high with over 1,000 empty properties, and city council needs to be much more proactive in finding a solution,” said Mr. Hawkton, who is also chairman of the Carlisle Green Party.

“It was not a problem that arose overnight.”

“At the moment, there seems to be a lot more interest in building new homes and making the city bigger and destroying our surrounding environment than in dealing with parts of our city that have been left behind.”

The Carlisle Greens and District Greens said they would like to see “a much more proactive use of empty housing management orders and work with self-help co-ops to get homes back into service and regenerate communities.”

Carlisle City Council has launched an initiative to reduce the problem of empty housing in the city by providing grants to homeowners to encourage home improvements in 2019.

In November 2019, a letter was sent to homeowners whose properties had been empty for more than two years, offering potential help in the form of a small grant. Carlisle City Council has agreed to allocate £ 23,200 for the project.

However, Mr. Hawkton doesn’t think he’s done enough.

He added: “I would like to see conditions put on these grants to ensure that homes are renovated with insulation and double glazing so that tenants have warm homes to live in. This will also help our net carbon emissions target. zero. ”

Carlisle City Councilor for Cathedral and Castle Peter Sunter said the issue of empty houses was also a concern raised to him.

He said: “This is something I talked about when I was campaigning.

“This is something that I noticed – that a lot of properties in the cathedral and the castle [ward], especially the side of the cathedral belong to owners and are not always rented. ”

On whether this might leave properties as targets for antisocial behavior, Cllr Sunter added, “I don’t know if any properties are burgled or misused in this way, but the antisocial part for me is that someone ‘one could live there.

“There should be a reason a property is empty, and if it is empty because the rent is too high or the cost of living is too high, then something has to be done.”

One owner, who owns a property in the Castle area himself, said the empty house problem in Carlisle is much more complex.

Crawford Johnson, who is also the managing director of CJ City Properties in Carlisle, said the problem of homes left empty is more than just the fact that landlords aren’t working hard enough on the property.

In some cases, Mr Johnson said, homes are left empty by landlords who have moved into a retirement home – making the task of looking after the house or renting it out much more difficult – or they are caught in the refund process.

Carlisle Labor City Councilor for Cathedral and Castle Peter Sunter

“I have two empty properties right now, but both are undergoing renovations.

“By empty properties I guess they weren’t left for some other reason that work needs to be done on them.

“I don’t think there are a lot of empty properties in town, unless some of them are inherited, family members have been placed in care homes or that they are under renovation.

“These are all very relevant reasons why properties are empty as opposed to things left to rot.”

“It’s much more complex.”

Potential Castle Ward candidate Mr Hawkton said the frustration of seeing some houses empty also lies in the idea that families could be relocated there instead of being left empty.

Once again Mr Johnson reiterated he believed there were perfectly relevant reasons why some houses in town were currently empty.

He said: “It would be interesting to know which houses [Mr Hawkton] refers to. Are they caught up by people in retirement homes? Are they being overtaken by properties in a state pending approval? Or are they just sitting there rotting?

“We’re not Kensington in London, where people buy houses to park money in the millions. We’re in Cumbria, we’re in Carlisle.

“I don’t think there are many houses sitting around that aren’t [facing] a problem.”

Carlisle City Council said its 2019 housing subsidy program has enabled homeowners to get up to £ 3,000 to make their empty long-term properties habitable in 2020.

These properties were to be made available for occupancy after six months from the date of grant funding approval.

Originally, the planned end date was June 30, 2020. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a delay in final completion dates.

The Council offered another empty house grant this year and 18 other empty house owners are expected to benefit from this offer.

The Council added that five additional candidates are currently under evaluation.

News and Star: Paul Nedved, Carlisle City Council's portfolio holder for economy, business and housingCarlisle City Council’s Economic, Business and Housing Portfolio Holder, Paul Nedved

Carlisle City Council Economy, Business and Housing portfolio holder Paul Nedved said: “We take the empty house issue very seriously and have a dedicated empty house manager in place to address the issue. problem.

“Annual empty house data submitted this year showed a remarkable 35% reduction in empty houses from the 2020 submission.

The reduction has been facilitated by a variety of initiatives including a Council-supported vacant home grant offer, enforcement activities and support to homeowners through divestiture of properties.

“We focus on the properties that have been vacant the longest and cause the most problems for people who live in the area. Our priority is to always work with owners to help restore properties to occupancy and resolve all issues affecting the community. ”

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