Extra boost for Empty Homes Scheme

A COUNCIL scheme that aims to bring empty homes back into use looks set to be expanded.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Empty Homes Scheme sees the local authority buy and refurbish houses that have been empty for more than six months.

The properties are then owned by the council, let to tenants and managed by Housing Hartlepool.

The original target was to transform 48 homes at an average cost of £55,000, which includes buying and renovating the house.

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Cabinet members met recently to discuss the scheme and approve plans to extend it with the aim of renovating 100 homes by March 2014.

Since the original scheme was approved in March, the council has successfully secured Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) funding worth £2.695m to expand the scheme.

A council report said: “To access this funding the council needs to provide match funding using the original business case approved in March 2012, which will provide an overall scheme delivering 100 properties, compared to the council’s initial local scheme of 48 properties.

“In order to access the HCA funding the council needs to complete these properties by March 2014.”

Cabinet members agreed to approve the proposal to use the scheme approved in March 2012 to match fund the HCA grant and to approve a total budget of £5.640m.

That is made up of the original approved funding of £2.63m, HCA funding of £2.695m and an extra £165,000 needed to fund the extra three properties to meet the target of 100.

A contingency fund of £150,000 has also been backed and the plans will now go to full council for final approval.

So far 47 properties have been valued and 22 are in the process of being brought, with a further 14 offers on the table.

Refurbishment work is underway on three houses, in the Baden Street and Mapleton Road area, and young people are involved in the construction work.

Dave Stubbs, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “In my time there have been many examples of officers working together, but this is a lot of officers coming together and working very well.”

Independent councillor John Lauderdale said: “I went in and had a look at the improvements in Baden Street and I was very impressed, it took me back 30 years.”

Mr Stubbs said the council had to be careful which houses they targeted to renovate and officers said they were targeting houses that have been empty for more than six months, of which there is a total of 753.

Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “There has been a lot of hard work gone into this.

“It is a risky area to manage but procedures are in place.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond added: “It is really pleasing to see something that was a good idea a few years ago come to fruition.”