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Cambridge City Council

Council support to turn empty properties into homes for those in need

27 February 2023

CAMBRIDGE City Council is marking Empty Homes Week from 27 February-5 March this year to highlight the support available to bring properties which have remained unoccupied for long periods of time back into use, and so help to address the shortage of affordable housing in the city.

When left empty for long periods of time, properties can easily deteriorate, becoming a burden to owners and increasingly expensive to bring back into use. The council can offer both financial and practical support to address the issue of long-term empty homes; and last year, succeeded in bringing 28 properties back into use.

More recently, since April 2022, with the support of the council:

  • Seven long term empty homes have gone on the market; one of which with planning permission for two properties, another refurbished and now sold, a third being converted into two flats for rent and a further two bungalows completely rebuilt
  • Five other properties are undergoing extensive refurbishment following their sale to new owners
  • The heirs of an empty property were traced and the property is soon to go on the market

The council’s not-for-profit private letting agency, Townhall Lettings, also works with the council’s Residential Team to source previously empty properties which would be suitable for housing families currently in temporary accommodation and for refugee families.

Townhall Lettings offers a range of different property management services and can assist financially and practically with any repairs needed to bring a property up to standard. Services offered by Townhall Lettings include:

  • Marketing the property, sourcing and referencing tenants
  • Creating tenancy documents
  • Day-to-day management, including regular inspections, arranging maintenance and safety checks
  • Guaranteed rent to landlords that offer properties at affordable rents, meaning landlords receive their monthly rent even in cases of non-payment by the tenant or when waiting for a new tenancy to start

Income generated by Townhall Lettings through its property management service is used to help fund other council initiatives aimed at ending homelessness in the city.

Cllr Gerri Bird, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “We always aim to support owners of empty homes at the earliest stage possible to prevent homes from falling into disrepair, potentially becoming a danger to the public and costing owners a lot of money.

“By getting involved we can help owners create a source of income from an empty home, rather than a source of stress and expense - so I would really encourage anyone with an empty property to get in touch with us and find out how we can help.

“We always tailor our support according to someone’s individual situation. We know that properties are left empty for many reasons, including financial and mental health problems, or simply someone not knowing how to go about returning a home to use. We also know that some properties in the city are bought as investments and simply left empty to accrue value.

“Whatever the reason, our aim is to help bring about the best solution for each owner and their property – and to help provide safe, comfortable homes for people who badly need them.”

Anyone owning a property that has been unoccupied for six months or more – or anyone who knows of a property in the city that is not being lived in – can get in touch with the council by phoning 01223 457900 or 457632, emailing or using the Report an empty home form