Empty homes that were once a blight on the streets of East Northamptonshire have been given a new lease of life thanks to East Northamptonshire Council with support from a local housing association.
Since March 2011, 196 homes in East Northamptonshire have been transformed, regenerating local areas and providing much-needed extra affordable homes for those in housing need.
Paul Palmer, empty homes officer for East Northamptonshire Council, Corby Council and Malvern Hills District Council, is responsible for identifying empty properties and working with owners to return them to use.
He said: “Most empty homes are privately owned and when they fall into disrepair, the owner often lacks the funds or the skills to repair and manage the property.
“By talking to the owner, we can help set up an action plan for restoring the property and establish ways in which it can be funded.
“For example, we identified an empty home on St Martins Close in Rushden.
“We approached the owner and offered them the chance to work with us.
“They were really keen and I explained that grant funding was available through housing association partner, Rockingham Forest.
“An action plan was set up and work began on a new kitchen and heating system.
“The property has now been let through the Keyway rental scheme to some very happy tenants.”
Mr Palmer said while they have already enjoyed success, there is still work to do.
He said: “It’s great to see so much good progress being made on empty properties but we acknowledge that much remains to be done and we will continue to work with property owners and help them re-create much needed homes.
“Each property brought back in to use qualifies for New Homes Bonus funding - £6,000 per property based on a Band D average rating.
“So with the 196 properties returned to use in East Northamptonshire, the district has received £1.1m of funding.
“We’ve spent £40,000 over four years, making the project a success so we feel this is a good return on the investment.
“Having worked successfully with willing owners, we are now turning attention to the more problematic cases, and will be looking at our range of enforcement tools for the more long term empties in poor condition with reluctant owners.”
The empty property register comes from Council Tax lists and reports from the public.
Sometimes a property is empty but Council Tax is still being paid, and some are in such a bad state they are uninhabitable and so no tax is being paid. These ones require some research into finding the owner.
Other properties that have benefited form the Empty Homes project are:
- Little Street, Rushden: Owner refurbished property for letting via our leasing scheme, but the scheme was full.
However, a private tenant had approached the council around the same time and they were put in touch with the owner and subsequently moved in.
- Lancaster Street, Higham Ferrers: Property was in good condition but empty for nine years because the owner had previous bad experiences of letting so was happy to keep it empty.
An empty homes officer explained how to source reputable letting agents and she did.
- Main Street, Glapthorn: The owner of this property died and the house stood empty for a year.
After it was established a family member was now responsible for the property, they worked with them to get the property up to scratch so it could be sold and subsequently, occupied.
- High Street South, Rushden: The owner had a flat that she kept vacant because of noise nuisance form a condenser located on the shop next door.
The empty homes officer worked with the Environmental Health team to resolve the problems with the condenser resulting in the property being let.