Saturday, April 5, 2008

Empty Properties

I've been on the campaign trail from one end of the ward to the other today.

A common theme was empty properties. When it comes to posh flats, you can get some idea from the electoral register how many properties are likely to be unoccupied. The Belvedere has a relatively high occupancy rate, the Levels next door apparantly less so. Rumours abound of investors leaving property empty to maximise returns. To my Labour opponent, I dare say this is a terrible situation, and the state should step in as soon as possible to try forcing landlords to accept tenants or otherwise take control of the property. I say not so quick - people should have the right to do what they want with their own property, and as long the owner behaves lawfully and responsibly, the state should be very reluctant to intervene - its not as if the state's record in manipulating housing markets is something to be proud of. Personally I think this is a temporary situation, led by landlords who have come unstuck with a lack of tenants for their flats, and are being overoptimistic about the levels of rent or sale price they will be able to get in future (is a banner proclaiming prices from £425k really helping generate sales leads?). But if burnt fingers are the result (and that is by no means certain), these professional investors will be more careful about how they allocate their resources in future, and everyone will benefit.

At the other end of the ward, residents have to put up with this:

This is no longer a case of a property owner harmlessly holding on to their property - residents are suffering from this eyesore, which is encouraging criminal behaviour. This site needs redevelopment as soon as possible. When I was a Councillor previously, the Council had the power to force residential property owners in high demand areas like Cambridge to bring residential property back into use, or face compulsory purchase. I think it is time for the Council to write to the owners of all empty properties in the ward and remind them of this power, but be much more willing and swift to use these powers in the case of the block pictured on Perne Road.

Another complaint heard more than once is that the Council is apparantly leaving its own properties empty unnecessarily long - it is going to be really difficult to investigate to what extent this is the situation before I am elected as a Councillor - this really would make it much easier to get answers to the relevant questions...

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