Council to extend hit scheme

Baden Street, of Elwick Road in Hartlepool.
Baden Street, of Elwick Road in Hartlepool.

A COUNCIL scheme that aims to bring empty properties back into use could be set to expand.

So far Hartlepool Borough Council has brought 96 properties across the town since phase one of the Empty Homes Programme was launched back in 2012.

The first phase is nearing an end and regeneration officers are looking to extend it into a second phase, turning around a further 67 houses in Hartlepool.

To help do that, the council would need to prudentially borrow £2,846,000. Members of the finance and policy committee gave their backing to the business case and the plans will now go before full council for funding approval.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said: “An additional funding bid has been submitted to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for £688,000 to deliver phase 2 of the scheme, the outcome of this bid will be announced in July 2014.

“The need is still high for intervention from the council to bring long term empty homes back into use and the council’s empty property purchasing scheme is still a good option for some owners of long term empty homes and demand for the scheme remains high.

“Demand for good quality affordable rented accommodation is also still high in Hartlepool.”

The business case is made up of two elements:

* Locally Funded Scheme

A report said the council currently has the capacity to prudentially borrow £2,846,000 supported from the rental income from properties secured in phase one Phase 1 which will fund 44 properties.

* Additional houses is dependent on HCA Funding

The report added that the authority is also in the process of bidding for additional HCA funding of £688,000. It needs match funding but it could result in an extra 23 houses.

Mr Wilson said: “The total number if the council is successful with the HCA bid will be 67 properties over a three year period.”

The council’s Empty Homes Strategy involves buying and refurbishing long term empty - six months or more - private sector houses, by agreement.

They remain in the council’s ownership, let to tenants at an affordable rent (80 per cent of market rent) and managed by the council’s housing services team.

Phase one saw a total of 96 properties secured by the local authority.

The average estimated total cost of buying and refurbishing them was £54,000, within the business case target of £55,000.

Officers say of those 29 properties are completed and let, 26 properties have work completed and are ready to let and 31 properties have refurbishment work progressing. 10 properties are in the “agreed sale position pending legal completion”.