Nottingham City Council has helped to bring 97 long-term empty homes back into use over the past seven months.

It follows work by the authority’s empty homes officer, together with occasional enforcement activity, which has seen 82 homes being re-occupied since April.

A further  15 properties have been brought back into use as council housing stock after they had laid empty for a considerable length of time, and in some cases were becoming a blight on their neighbourhood. A further nine are almost complete.

The figures have been revealed at the end of National Empty Homes Week, which started on Monday.

The re-purchasing drive by the council and partners at Nottingham City Homes (NCH) is part of the Government’s Empty Homes Programme. It  sees the authority buy up long-term vacant properties using grant money from the Homes and Communities Agency,  before handing them over to NCH to renovate and rent out at affordable rents.

The council will always try to engage with landlords to help bring empty homes back into use and provides a structured program of advice and persuasion, but does have enforcement powers available if this doesn’t work, including, as a last resort, compulsory purchase.

Over the past five years, the number of long-term empty homes in the city has been steadily coming down. In 2010, there were 1,947 homes classed as long-term empty – meaning they had been unoccupied for six months or more. Earlier this year, the figure was 1,247 – a 36 per cent drop.

The Council is currently working on a new action plan for empty homes that will set out how the authority intends to tackle the problem in the next few years.

Councillor Dave Liversidge, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety, Housing and Voluntary Sector, said: “Empty homes are a wasted resource in terms of housing need across Nottingham and can cause further negative effects across our communities. People have a right to live in a neighbourhood without run-down properties blighting their area and we are doing all we can to improve that situation.

“We are committed to making the best use of our existing housing stock and a major part of that is targeting properties which are long-term empty and bringing them back into use.”

Nottingham City Homes’ Chief Executive Nick Murphy said: “We are delighted to be working with the City Council to bring these empty homes back into use. By refurbishing these properties we are able to bring them back to life again and provide much needed housing for people.”