Communities Minister Don Foster has announced a £91m cash boost for towns in England with the aim being to refurbish and bring back into use use over 6,000 empty and derelict homes and commercial premises, particularly in the Midlands and North.
The funding is being allocated under two programmes:
- £61m from the second round of the empty homes funding programme provided to successful bidders eligible from all areas across England (except London, which will be announced separately) with empty homes. Around two thirds of this (£41m) is allocated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to registered social landlords; and the remaining money to community and voluntary groups.
- £30m second year award of Clusters of Empty Homes programme funding for twenty partnerships in areas of acute problems such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
Any incentive to encourage reuse of vacant property is welcome; it will be interesting to see how thinly this funding will be spread and whether it will actually assist with this problem which is blighting so many of our towns and cities.
Speaking today Mr Foster said: “This will bring people, shops and jobs back to once abandoned areas, and provide extra affordable homes we so badly need.
“We have already made very good progress, cutting the number of long term empty homes by 40,000 but with thousands of people in this country desperate to buy a home and areas still suffering problems of urban blight we must go further still.”
Homes and Communities Agency chief executive Andy Rose said: “We had a very encouraging response to the funding across a wide range of types of property. This demonstrates a strong appetite and scope for bringing empty homes and properties back into use, which will help to reinvigorate our communities and towns. We look forward to working with housing providers to bring these homes forward.”
Don Foster has also called on councils to sign up to TV presenter George Clarke’s ten point review for housing regeneration areas. The review supports ‘sweat equity schemes’, such as the one in Stoke Don Foster visited today, whereby people buy empty properties for a nominal price in exchange for an undertaking to refurbish them.
In an additional measure Councils now also have the power to charge owners 150% council tax rate for properties left empty for more than six months.