Lancaster to benefit from £1m government boost for empty homes

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Lancaster is to receive almost £1m of government funding to bring empty and derelict homes back into use.

The £955,394 windfall is part of a pot of nearly £7.6m to be shared among towns and cities in Lancashire.

Communities Minister Don Foster today announced that £91m is being invested across England to refurbish and bring back into use over 6,000 empty and derelict homes and commercial premises, and in particular 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.

Mr Foster said: “The government is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of empty homes and urban blight.

“Today I’m announcing we’re going to do even more, with towns across England benefiting from £91 million to refurbish over 6,000 empty properties to get them back into use.

“This will bring people, shops and jobs back to once abandoned areas, and provide extra affordable homes we so badly need.

“We have already made very good progress, cutting the number of long term empty homes by 40,000 but with thousands of people in this country desperate to buy a home and areas still suffering problems of urban blight we must go further still.”

The funding is being allocated under two programmes:

* £61m from the second round of the empty homes funding programme, provided to successful bidders eligible from all areas across England (except London, which will be announced separately) with empty homes. Around two thirds of this (£41m) is allocated by the Homes and Communities Agency to registered social landlords; and the remaining money to community and voluntary groups. Together the 187 successful organisations will bring around 3,200 extra homes back into use.

* £30m second year award of Clusters of Empty Homes programme funding for 20 partnerships in areas of acute problems such as Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Middlesbrough which will bring around 3,500 homes back into use.

Andy Rose, Homes and Communities Agency chief executive, said: “We had a very encouraging response to the funding across a wide range of types of property.

“This demonstrates a strong appetite and scope for bringing empty homes and properties back into use, which will help to reinvigorate our communities and towns. We look forward to working with housing providers to bring these homes forward.”

The government has already invested £130m to refurbish up to 11,500 empty homes since 2010.

This includes £100m to bring empty property back as affordable housing, and the first ‘clusters of empty homes’ programme investment of £30m.

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 £59m.

Councils now also have the power to charge owners 150 per cent council tax rate for properties left empty for more than six months, using the money to keep down council tax for ordinary families.