A WIDE-RANGING programme to tackle problem properties in Sunderland is yielding results, with more than 500 fewer empty homes in the city in just three years.

Sunderland City Council has released figures that show that 546 fewer properties were empty in the city in March 2023, compared to figures from December 2019.  There have been significant shifts in the number of homes left unoccupied for more than six months in the east and west of the city, as well as in the Coalfields area of Sunderland, which includes Houghton and Hetton-le-Hole.  There are fewer than 2,800 empty homes in Sunderland compared to 3,305 at the end of 2019, and it is hoped – with ongoing intervention – this number will continue to drop.

The council has led a proactive programme to tackle empty homes, with a range of interventions designed to oust problem landlords, as well as support property owners willing to invest in empty buildings to deliver good-quality accommodation for rent.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member, said: “We know that empty properties don’t just represent wasted spaces that should be providing a home for families in this city, but they are often a blight on the areas they stand among, acting as magnets for things like anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.

“We have a strategy to proactively tackle empty homes, and we are seeing the impact of this already, with a significant reduction in the homes left unused across the city.  While so many of our residents need appropriate accommodation, it is just wrong that homes, that could support them, stand unoccupied and we are determined to do all we can to tackle this issue.”

As well as supporting others to bring empty homes into use, the council has acquired several problem-properties, listening to residents about the damaging impact these homes were having on these communities.

“We know that, once buildings stand empty for a period of time, problems set in, and it can become uneconomical to return them to use.  We want to see buildings brought back into use as soon after they become vacant as possible, and by working with landlords, as well as by taking on some properties ourselves, we are stamping out a problem that we know our residents want to see addressed.”