‘Abandoned’ homes could be sold for £1 to halt decline

EYESORE FEARS ... Easington MP Grahame Morris.
EYESORE FEARS ... Easington MP Grahame Morris.

HUNDREDS of “abandoned” homes could be sold for as little as £1 in a bid to stop a potential “vicious circle of decline”, the Government has suggested.

Housing association Accent, which manages 361 properties in Horden and Blackhall, has been accused of “abandoning the community” by withdrawing millions of pounds of regeneration money.

Of the 220 homes it manages in Horden, 130 are empty, while 30 of its 141 properties in Blackhall have become vacant.

But, Accent believes the homes cannot be let due to the bedroom tax, and has therefore withdrawn the regeneration cash, which was set to be used to replace bathrooms, kitchens, windows, doors and heating systems.

The empty properties in Horden and Blackhall have become an “eyesore”, according to Easington MP Grahame Morris, who raised the issue in the House of Commons.

However, he does not want Accent to partake in a “wholesale sell-off”.

He said: “Vacant properties are being boarded up, which are an eyesore and a drain on the community.

“As we know, when areas fall into disrepair, they become a target for crime and we get a vicious circle of decline.

“Residents in neighbouring properties are also experiencing problems such as anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping and rat infestations owing to issues in the Accent-owned derelict properties.”

He added: “The feeling is that Accent has abandoned the community and I would like the Minister to ensure that it will not be allowed simply to walk away from its responsibilities.

“A wholesale sell-off where the homes disperse into many ownerships would be the worst possible option for the community.

“We need some selective demolitions and the existing stock needs to be refashioned in a way that accommodates the needs of the local populations.”

The empty properties could be sold for as little as £1 to local buyers under a homesteading scheme.

Homesteading involves empty properties being made available at a discounted cost, which is usually conditional on the buyer renovating the property.

The Government believes such a scheme could work in the former mining towns, although the plan must pass a value-for-money test by the Homes and Communities Agency.

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning at the Department for Communities and Local Government, Brandon Lewis, said: “I understand that Accent is currently working on a homesteading initiative, whereby properties can be sold at a discount in return for the purchaser guaranteeing that the property will be their home for a specific period.

“We need to see beautiful places such as Horden thriving, but we must also ensure that we fix the broken market so that they can deliver on that. The Homes and Communities Agency is working with local partners to seek a solution to the problems being experienced in Horden.”