Monday, 02 September 2013 09:10

Scheme aims to ease housing crisis

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Scheme aims to ease housing crisis

AN innovative scheme aims to increase affordable housing by bringing back empty properties into use.

The National Empty Homes Loan Fund aims to tackle the 710,000 empty homes across the country by helping owners bring them back into use.

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 available to residents.

The initiative 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.

The government established the £3 million fund following a campaign led by the architect and broadcaster George Clarke as part of Channel 4's Great British Property Scandal.

The programme 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 to the council for a loan between £5,000 and £15,000.

Loans are paid in advance with 5% interest. Borrowers will need to make monthly repayments over a maximum period of five years.

Loans will be made by the Ecology Building Society with local authorities working with owners to apply for the funds, saving them a £495 charge.

One of the local authorities involved is Durham County Council.

Councillor Eddie Tomlinson, Durham's cabinet member for housing, said: "We're delighted to be backing this scheme which will be of great benefit to the county.

"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."

David Ireland, chief executive of Empty Homes, said he hoped hundreds of empty homes would be brought back up to standard and into the housing stock.

"This scheme is a real first in England and is a great example of central government working together with the public and private sector to try and reduce the number of empty homes in the UK."

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