A scheme to transform empty properties and get people on the housing ladder has been relaunched in Stoke-on-Trent.
The city council has started the second phased of the so-called '£1 Homes scheme'.
The first phase in 2013 saw 33 vacant properties in Cobridge transformed, and in exchange for a £1 purchase price the new owners agreed to repay the costs of renovation through a 10-year low-interest loan of £30,000.
The project attracted national and worldwide media interest, and picked up the Housing Initiative accolade in the 2015 Local Government Chronicle Awards.
In this second phase, the authority is spending £1.5 million to buy and refurbish up to 25 privately-owned but vacant properties in the Portland Street area of Hanley.
Applications are now open, with the closing date for the now called 'Reviving Communities' scheme set as January 12, 2018.
To be successful, applicants will need strong local connections to the area, and be earning modest salaries that would ordinarily put home ownership beyond their reach.
Properties will be refurbished by local contractors through the city council’s repair company Unitas Stoke-on-Trent, and it is thought the first homes will be handed over in summer/autumn next year.
As well as transforming the properties, prior to the previous scheme, work was carried out to revive community spirit.
It included the clearing of fly-tipping and rubbish hotspots by the whole community, and the makeover of the local play park.
As a result, the first year of the project saw a reduction in crime by 12 per cent, as well as improvements in housing conditions and health.
Councillor Randy Conteh, the city council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “The award-winning empty homes scheme has provided an innovative solution for bringing a number of properties back into use in Stoke-on-Trent. The repayments from the first scheme are being reinvested in more empty properties – making this a sustainable project offering ongoing value for money for taxpayers and residents.
“The project focuses on providing something affordable, sustainable, imaginative and with the ability to bring back an element of pride to the neighbourhood. It not only enables hardworking people on modest salaries to buy homes they would not otherwise be able to afford, it helps to regenerate rundown parts of the city – adding to a sense of community for residents and helping to tackle social issues.
Councillor Randy Conteh on Portland Street
“The first phase of the scheme attracted national and worldwide media interest, and queries from other local authorities about how they could develop a scheme of their own.
“In preparation for the launch of the second phase, since late last year our private sector housing team has been communicating and negotiating with owners of empty properties in the Portland Street area. To date we have 12 long-term empty homes with the aim of acquiring up to a maximum of 25.
“It’s fantastic that we are now launching the Reviving Communities scheme, and we want to make sure that anyone who is interested in being part of it – and eligible to apply for a home – has a chance to be involved.”