Filling empty homes across Sefton

avarto

Addressing the housing crisis: arvarto partners with Callcredit to help Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council fill empty houses for the benefit of residents and the Council’s finances

Background

Across the UK, a key priority for both local and central government is addressing the housing shortage that has emerged due to a growing population, reduced residential construction and a large number of homes sitting unoccupied across the country. In fact, in May 2015, the government identified that 635,000 homes in England were empty, with over 216,000 of those being uninhabited for six months or more.

Objective

Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council wanted to fill unoccupied homes in the area to address its own local housing shortage. The empty properties were also having a negative aesthetic impact on local neighbourhoods and fuelling demand for new residential building on housing estates. In some cases, despite being legally registered as empty, houses were actually occupied, leading to both intentional and unintentional council tax evasion. Critically, by filling empty homes across Sefton, the Council knew it could gain access to the UK Government’s New Homes Bonus. Introduced in 2011 to help address national housing shortages, it offers grants to local councils the value of six years’ worth of council tax for bringing an empty property back into occupancy. This would provide Sefton Council with an opportunity to reinvest any funding received from the grant straight back into the community for the benefit of Sefton’s residents.

Solution - A house-by-house inspection strategy leveraging world-class technology 

Sefton Council worked in partnership with its long-term transactional services partner, arvato, to bring as many homes back into occupancy as possible. To achieve this, arvato selected Callcredit Information Group (Callcredit), a leader in empty homes detection technology to play a key role in the project with the help of its innovative ThreeSixty Empty Homes software. Firstly, arvato provided Callcredit with a register of nearly 4900 addresses from its vacant homes register which it managed on behalf of the Council. Applying its software, Callcredit undertook a comprehensive economic and credit activity analysis for each house to identify the likelihood of it being occupied.  In total, 434 houses were classified as being highly likely to be occupied, with a further 1,313 classified as reasonably likely. Such categorization was important in providing an efficient way for arvato to prioritise the subsequent physical inspections carried out on a house-by-house basis, starting with those with the highest chance of being occupied. 

Results - Residents of Sefton benefit in more ways than one  

After just the first month of the review, Sefton Council brought 89 properties back into occupancy. This resulted in much-needed additional housing for the local community, reduced demand for new-home building and generates £87,100 per annum for six years in revenue through the New Homes Bonus. A total of £522,600 over the six-year period. This has been directly reinvested by Sefton Council to fund critical front-line services for its residents. 

An additional benefit delivered through the initiative is that by significantly enhancing the accuracy of Sefton Council’s housing vacancy records, it has ensured that properties are legitimately registered as empty and in the process, minimizing the risk of council tax fraud and evasion.

Sefton Council, arvato and Callcredit are now undertaking planning to continue working together to bring many more homes into occupancy, for the benefit of both the Council and its residents.

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