The Liberal Democrat communities Minister Don Foster has announced that towns across England will benefit from £91 million to refurbish and bring back into use over 6,000 empty and derelict homes and commercial premises, particularly in the Midlands and North where the problem is most acute.
The funding will be spent on refurbishment in areas where empty properties have commonly led to problems such as squatting, rat infestation and collapsing house prices, driving remaining residents away. There funding can be accessed through the empty homes funding programme by registered social landlords, and community and voluntary groups.
The government has already invested £130 million to refurbish up to 11,500 empty homes since 2010. This includes £100 million to bring empty property back as affordable housing, and the first ‘clusters of empty homes’ programme investment of £30 million.
In addition New Homes Bonus, under which government matches council tax income on new build or empty homes brought back into use, has supported over 50,000 empty homes being refurbished for people and families to live in and rewarded councils with £59 million. Councils now also have the power to charge owners 150% council tax rate for properties left empty for more than six months, using the money to keep down council tax for ordinary families.
Councillor James Baker deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Calderdale Council said “It’s good news for families on the housing waiting list that our region of the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber has already received £11,522,648 from the empty homes programme. This extra money from the government will help bring empty houses back into use and provide much needed homes for people. It makes sense to redevelop existing empty homes, as building space for new homes is limited across Calderdale.”