HOUSING chiefs in Teignbridge have reduced the stock of empty homes in the area for the ninth year in a row.
The tally, now standing at 364, means more people are being found accommodation in the district.
Officers behind the initiative contact owners of empty properties to establish what efforts are being made to put their bricks and mortar back in use.
They then implement an established formula, including financial aid, to help owners who may be struggling to have the empties re-occupied.
In one instance the authority came to the rescue of an elderly and infirm Dawlish woman who had to move from the area after suffering a fall.
She was unable to clear her furnishing and possessions, including an urn containing the ashes of her mother. The council acted after receiving complaints from neighbours.
It was able to clear the run-down property, reunite the pensioner with her worldly goods and instigate repairs with her consent.
A Teignbridge spokesman said: ‘We liaised with agents on behalf of the owner. The house was sold, refurbished and is now occupied.’
The owner said of her rescuers: ‘I couldn’t have done it without them. They were very kind and understanding and if it hadn’t been for them I would still be trying to empty the property.’
Teignbridge’s achievements have been highlighted as part National Empty Homes Week which runs from November 28 to December 2.
The district council’s executive spokesman for planning and housing, Cllr Humphrey Clemens, said: ‘Bringing empty homes back into use is a cornerstone of our Roof Over Our Head project.
‘This work is complicated and sensitive. It can have real-life benefits, not only improving local neighbourhoods and making housing more readily available, but, as the Dawlish matter proves, really making a difference to a vulnerable property owner’s life.’
He added: ‘For Teignbridge, it’s about determining the most appropriate means of bringing empty property back into use and, where appropriate, offering assistance. It’s also about using our powers when owners refuse to take action.’ Any owners of an empty property who would like to discuss assistance available can contact Teignbridge Council’s empty homes officer Hayley Farley on 01626 215425.