Jersey's Housing Minister has given a speech at a UK conference on the topic of empty homes – just weeks after an island-wide search for vacant properties with development potential saw its first potential "win" in the form of a dilapidated bungalow whose owner died more than 40 years ago.
The annual Empty Homes Network Conference in Birmingham was attended by organisations across the UK and Europe that specialise in bringing empty homes back onto the market.
Deputy David Warr's speech focused on the challenges Jersey is currently facing with regards to empty homes, and the operation of the newly created Empty Homes Service.
Launching an 'Empty Homes Service' was one of six 'action points' in the Minister's ‘Action on Vacant Properties' plan published at the end of last year.
The Empty Homes Service not only allows islanders to log the location of homes they believe to be vacant, but aims to provide guidance to owners who might be unsure how to go about bringing an empty home back into use.
Good to be in a room full of people who are so determined to resolve the issue of long term vacant homes. pic.twitter.com/mQEKgOqFun— David Warr (@WarrOnWords) May 24, 2023
The most recent census estimated that roughly 4,000 homes were vacant in Jersey - almost one in every 10 properties.
However, following research by his officers, Deputy Warr estimates the true number of empty homes to be around 900.
More than 200 properties have been reported to the Empty Homes Service since its launch, and earlier this month, Deputy Warr reported the "first win" of the process.
The reported home was a bungalow with a garden, which was found to be in poor condition, with boarded-up windows and overgrown ivy. Government officers carried out research on the property's ownership history and discovered that the late owner died in 1975, possibly intestate with no heirs.
As a result, it has been passed to HM Receiver General Alan Blair, who will assess the possibility of claiming – with Royal Court approval – the abandoned property as 'bona vacantia' or 'vacant goods'.
In such cases, the property passes to the Crown under the stewardship of HM Receiver General for a period of up to 40 years, after which it will be owned outright by the Crown. This means the property could be refurbished and made available for use, or ultimately returned to the market for sale.
Islanders can log the location of homes they believe to be vacant by emailing or calling the service or reporting one online.
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The Parish Hall concerned ought to have backed up the yearly rates assessment to the cloud, hoping that someone like St Peter (that’s the apostle, not the Parish) might have passed it on to the long-deceased homeowner.
A win!? What have they won, except much deserved ridicule…..