Empty Hartlepool homes set for rebirth

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THE first phase of a scheme to bring dozens of empty Hartlepool homes back into use is due to be completed next month.

Councillors agreed in March 2012 to buy 48 empty homes and secured £2.6m from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to fund the scheme.

In October 2012, the project was expanded to cover 100 homes, with the additional cost off-set against future rental income.

The properties, which have all been empty for at least six months, will be let at an affordable rent and managed by Housing Hartlepool until the end of next month, then handed over to the council’s housing services team from April 1.

A meeting of the council’s regeneration services committee heard more than 350 valuations and inspections had been carried out and many properties had been acquired after direct contact with the owners while others were bought on the open market.

A project team consisting of officers from housing services, facilities management, building consultancy, finance and Housing Hartlepool, has drawn up a timetable which aims to see all 100 properties refurbished within two years.

So far, 46 properties have been let, with a further 11 ready for tenants and improvement work is under way on the remaining 43.

The project is on budget, with each house costing average of £54,433 to buy and refurbish.

Council bosses are planning a full evaluation of phase one of the scheme once all the refurbishment work is finished – scheduled to be March 31 – with a view to producing a report in the late spring, early summer.

That report will then form the basis of the second phase of the programme and help identify which kinds of property should be targeted.

The main challenge experienced so far is the is time taken between buying the houses and completing the refurbishment, especially with a rise in the number of properties requiring completion each month.