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22 September 2011

New government strike on empty homes

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by Gill Montia

New government strike on empty homes

Community groups will soon be able to apply for Government cash to bring empty homes back into use.

Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, has announced that community and voluntary organisations can bid for a share of a £100 million funding pot aimed at pioneering schemes that transform empty properties into affordable housing.

With an estimated 700,000 empty homes across England, the Government also has plans to allow councils to bump up council tax on dwellings that have been empty for more than two years.

Meanwhile, the New Homes Bonus will applying to empty homes brought back into use, so councils will receive six years’ worth of funding for every successful case.

The minister adds that many of these schemes could provide wider benefits, such as training opportunities for local people.

For example, a pilot scheme in Harrogate has seen a charity purchase empty homes for refurbishment by trainees under the guidance of a mentor, with the refurbished properties then rented out to the trainees.

For groups thinking of applying for funding, formal bidding guidance will be published shortly along with the Government’s approach to tackling empty homes, as part of its wider housing strategy.

Mr Stunell concludes with a rallying call: “There is a desperate need in this country for affordable housing, and yet for every two families that need a home, there is one property standing empty.”

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