Council to buy more empty homes

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PLANS to expand a council scheme that aims to bring empty homes back into use has been unanimously agreed by councillors.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Empty Homes Scheme sees the local authority buy and refurbish houses that have been empty for more than six months.

The properties are then owned by the council, let to tenants and managed by Housing Hartlepool.

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The original target was to transform 48 homes at an average cost of £55,000, which includes buying and renovating the house.

But councillors have now approved cabinet-backed plans to extend it with the aim of renovating 100 homes by March 2014.

Since the original scheme was approved in March, the council has successfully secured Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) funding worth £2.695m to expand the scheme.

Speaking at a full council meeting, independent councillor Paul Thompson, portfolio holder for finance and corporate services, said: “It offers the council the chance to grab the bull by the horns.”

The full council committee agreed proposals to use the scheme approved in March this year to match fund the HCA grant and to approve a total budget of £5.640m.

That is made up of the original approved funding of £2.63m, HCA funding of £2.695m and an extra £165,000 needed to fund the extra three properties to meet the target of 100.

So far 47 properties have been valued and 22 are in the process of being brought, with a further 14 offers on the table.

Refurbishment work is underway on three houses, in the Baden Street and Mapleton Road area, and young people are involved in the construction work.

Labour group leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “The report itself speaks for itself.

“It is an excellent scheme.”

The Labour Group called for regular update reports every four months on a property by property basis, which Coun Thompson said he was happy to agree to.

Labour councillor Jonathan Brash said: “I am delighted to see the original scheme is being expanded.

“Everyone in the department has worked tirelessly.”

He added it was good for the local economy and good for apprenticeship schemes.

The council is targeting houses that have been empty for more than six months, of which there is a total of 753.