MORE than 150 empty homes have now been brought back into use under a council scheme but there are fresh calls for more two-bedroom houses to be a priority to help those affected from the controversial bedroom tax.
The Hartlepool Borough Council scheme is aimed at revamping areas which have been blighted by empty and derelict properties.
Councillors sitting on the council’s regeneration services committee met recently to discuss the latest figures, which involve negotiations between owners, agreed sales, some enforced sales and also a compulsory purchase order.
The original target was to transform 48 homes at an average cost of £55,000, which includes buying and renovating the house.
But Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration, said between 150 and 160 properties had now been brought back into use.
Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher called for areas with two-bedroom houses to be prioritised to help provide accommodation for those that need to move out of their own homes as a result of the bedroom tax, which came into force on April 1.
It affects social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they have any unoccupied rooms and households under occupancy have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “It is important people are living in properties where they won’t rack up rent arrears.”
Mr Wilson said the majority of houses brought back into use were two-bedroom and he added there was between 700 and 900 empty properties in town at any one time and that can be for a number of reasons and sometimes for a short period of time.
Officers said a list of top 20 targets had been drawn up and is constantly changing.
Recently Hartlepool was awarded £1,116,812 by the Government for a range of schemes across town involving Hartlepool Borough Council, Housing Hartlepool and Hartlepool NDC Trust.
The money will be used to buy and renovate 17 properties across town, including Morison Hall on the Headland. Nationally the Government is pumping £91m into refurbishing and bringing back into use more than 6,000 empty and derelict properties.