HARTLEPOOL Mayor Stuart Drummond has given his backing to a new pilot scheme that could see up to £500,000 spent on transforming a problem street.
Hartlepool Borough Council plans to tackle empty homes in Baden Street, off Elwick Road, which has become a target for thieves, vandals and arsonists, by offering cash incentives to landlords to improve their properties.
There are 45 houses in the street and 22 of them are currently empty.
The vast majority of properties are owned by private landlords.
The phased pilot scheme involves:
l A £120,000 landlord incentive scheme offering the owners of empty houses the chance to apply for a £5,000 grant/loan to improve their properties to attract new tenants;
l More support for tenants to ensure rent and bills are paid on time and to give them benefits advice;
l A permanent police or security presence on the street costing in the region of £25,000;
l Grants worth £5,000 to improve those properties with existing tenants, at a cost of £105,000.
Meanwhile, a further £200,000 could be spent on improving the road layout and pedestrian access, subject to funding.
Mayor Drummond said: “I am really pleased to see that the majority of landlords are going to co-operate and that the tenants want to be part of it as well.
“It is right that Baden Street is the pilot, as the problems are well documented.
“It is best to start with the worst first.”
Detailed property surveys will now be carried out and the incentive scheme promoted over the summer to encourage as many landlords as possible to sign up.
Council officers say they are determined to improve the street and will tackle landlords who do not co-operate.
If necessary, the council has the power to use compulsory purchase orders and empty dwelling management orders to take over problem houses.
The pilot scheme, which could be extended to other areas of town, has been welcomed by Labour ward councillor Jonathan Brash.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Brash said: “Baden Street is one of the worst in town for empty properties.
“What is good is that this insists that landlords sign up and co-operate to make sure that we get the right tenants in the area.
“This is a real chance to turn the street around, which is not far off the point of no return.”
But some landlords have questioned the council plans.
Kevin Wilmot, 49, who has 170 houses in town, said: “The properties are fine, it is the people inside them that are the problem.
“I have reservations over whether this will work and the only way to solve it is to do all the houses up and then you can control what kind of street it is.”