DERELICT homes across Chard and Ilminster could soon be renovated and brought back to life as part of a scheme being rolled out across South Somerset.

South Somerset District Council has launched an empty homes strategy in a bid to fill more than 2,500 properties and help reduce the number of people on their housing list, which currently stands at 5,000 people.

The council are asking people to report any empty houses and then they will contact the owners to find out why the property is empty and how to bring it back to use.

They say they will offer low cost loans and other assistance but add that if this fails, they will take “robust” enforcement action to make sure the property is filled.

Leader of the council, Cllr Ric Pallister, said: “Empty properties are a wasted housing resource, they can fall into serious disrepair, become unsafe and unsightly, an opportunistic place for squatters, vandals, burglars and anti-social behaviour.

“They can be a blight on the neighbourhood and can de-value neighbouring properties.

“The country is presently in the grip of a housing crisis with many homeless people who desperately need housing.

“People on the housing waiting list in South Somerset could make good use of all the empty property available.

“Our strategy is aimed at bringing as many empty properties as possible back into use to provide housing for local people.”

The council, who are working alongside Mendip District Council on the strategy, say there are “keen to avoid” enforcement action in order to “promote a satisfactory outcome” through the availability of grants, loans and advice on refurbishing the property.

National housing and homelessness charity Shelter say they are keen to see empty and derelict properties across the country brought back to use.

On their website, they say across England there are 279,000 long-term privately owned empty homes and describe it as “a real waste of housing when there are so many homeless families looking for somewhere to live.”

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