COUNCIL bosses have signed up to a national scheme to increase affordable housing and help owners of empty properties bring them back into use.
The National Empty Homes Loan Fund has been established to tackle the 710,000 empty homes across the country.
Owners will be able to apply for a low interest loan of up to £15,000 to bring properties up to the Decent Homes Standard.
As part of the agreement, the renovated property must then be rented out at 80 per cent of the market rate for rent for the duration of the loan, increasing the number of affordable homes.
The scheme is a joint venture between the Empty Homes charity, the Ecology Building Society, central government and 39 local authorities who have signed up for the scheme – including Durham County Council.
The Government established the £3 million fund following a campaign led by Washington architect and broadcaster George Clarke as part of Channel 4’s Great British Property Scandal, which found that many owners of empty properties were unable to access funds to bring run down properties back into use.
Owners of properties that have been empty for over six months will be able to apply for a loan between £5,000 and £15,000. The loans are paid in advance with a low interest of five per cent.
Councillor Eddie Tomlinson, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for housing, said: “Not only will it mean empty properties are renovated and brought back into use but it will also increase the number of affordable homes available to local residents.”
George Clarke said: “I care passionately about getting England’s empty homes back into use for people who need them.
“This scheme provides real help to property owners to help achieve that.”