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Newark and Sherwood District Councillor wants empty buildings to be used to help housing crisis

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A councillor who was once himself homeless wants disused properties to be brought into public ownership to help with the housing crisis.

Newark and Sherwood District Council has 5,551 homes. There are currently 5,070 applicants on its housing register, of these 617 are in the priority bands one and two for housing need.

Laurence Goff, who represents Newark’s Devon Ward, and his twin brother were kicked out of the family home aged 16 to fend for themselves and had it not been for hostels and a religious order, they would have been living on the streets.

Laurence Goff. (43954935)
Laurence Goff. (43954935)

Mr Goff said: “I am raising this awareness for the possibility of looking into property guardianship.

“I believe urgent action need to be done to start tackle empty properties.

Newark and Sherwood District Council logo (6865711)
Newark and Sherwood District Council logo (6865711)

“I have noticed so many vacant and empty properties that could be looked into across Newark and district.

“You can see lots of empty places on the top floor of many shops. People used to live above shops.

“It’s wasted space. Having somebody living in them provides security to the premises too.

“I feel the council could take ownership, even temporary ownership, of buildings and bring them into use to help with the housing crisis. They could provide temporary accommodation for the Afghan families coming here for instance.

“People spend so long on the housing list that their circumstances change, their children grow up and need houses of their own.”

Mr Goff pinpointed as examples two empty shops near Asda plus another near the Travelodge, empty rooms above shops on Middlegate and Stodman Street, the former Chinese takeaway on Portland Street and the 30,000sq ft former pine furniture warehouse on Victoria Street.

Nationally, over 100,000 families are living in temporary accommodation while over half a million homes have no permanent resident.

Property guardianship brings buildings that would otherwise stand empty back into use as housing.

These buildings can be anything that is suitable to be used or converted into appropriate accommodation: offices, flats, houses, churches, former GP surgeries, even disused fire stations.

This provides security to the property owner while the building is empty and provides cost-effective housing for the guardians living there. This model is growing and said to be affordable.

Roger Blaney, chairman of the planning committee at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “Public guardianship is a complicated process.

“Using and transforming empty properties and vacant land are both important for building strong and stable communities which is a key priority for the district council.

“Often, empty properties have complex problems, such as absentee landlords, meaning that making use out of empty properties can be extremely difficult or take many years.

“However, this doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t try to explore options with them nonetheless.”

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