£2million grant to bring empty homes back into use

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EMPTY homes are to be brought back into use through a new scheme aimed at increasing affordable housing.

Members of Durham County Council’s ruling cabinet will hear how the authority is planning to use a £2.12million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and its own match funding to tackle the problem of long-term vacant properties.

The authority is planning to work with registered housing providers to buy private sector properties, bring them up to standard and offer them for rent at an affordable level.

Councillor Eddie Tomlinson, cabinet member for housing and rural issues, said: “Properties that stand empty for long periods of time often start to deteriorate. This obviously reduces the chances of them being occupied in the future and can have a negative impact on the look and feel of the local area.

“The Empty Homes Cluster Programme offers a new way of bringing these long-term empty homes back into use, providing much needed affordable housing and helping rejuvenate communities.”

Under the scheme, the council will match fund the HCA cash to purchase properties which have been vacant for six months or more.

Each property will be leased to a registered provider who will use their own funds to bring it up to a decent standard and manage it for a period of 12 years.

The provider will be responsible for the management and ongoing maintenance of the property and rent collection.

The council will receive a proportion of the rental income and the money generated through this will be re-invested in buying additional empty properties.

The HCA and council money will cover the first two years, during which it is hoped about 120 properties can be brought back into use.

Efforts will be focused on three specific areas, including Easington Colliery, because more than 10 per cent of the housing stock is unoccupied.

Cabinet meets at County Hall, Durham City, on Wednesday.