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Plymouth provides more support to get empty homes back into use

Plymouth City Council has agreed a policy offering more support for empty home owners, enabling more of the city’s empty homes to be brought back into occupation.

The council has agreed the Empty Homes Financial Assistance Policy, which allows owners of empty homes to apply for financial assistance up to £50,000 per unit of accommodation, rising up to a total of £150,000 per property.

Eligible applicants will be offered 10% of financial assistance as a grant with the remaining 90% as a repayable loan, extending the grant allowance to 25% if owners agree to let their properties at an affordable rent through one of the city’s social lettings schemes or housing associations.

“We are committed to tackling empty homes in Plymouth and very pleased to be able to offer assistance to local people to help bring empty homes back into use,” said Cllr Steve Ricketts, cabinet member for transport and housing delivery on Plymouth council.

“I have seen for myself when visiting different parts of the city how long-term empty homes really can blight local communities and we are determined to do all we that we can.”

Empty homes are seen as multiplicitous issue for councils, often attracting vermin, increasing the risk of break-ins and arson and potentially devaluing neighbouring homes by as much as 20%.

The council believes that its work to tackle empty homes will also improve the local environment by removing derelict properties and the corresponding anti-social behaviour, with Cllr Ricketts calling the scheme “a win-win situation”.

Plymouth’s new policy follows its Plan for Homes launched last year, a £1m investment which aims to bring 375 empty homes back into use by 2021.

There are 678 homes in Plymouth which have been empty for more than six months. The DCLG said in April last year that the number of empty homes nationwide has dropped from 318,642 in 2004 to 203,596 in 2015, the lowest figure since records began.

Helen Williams, chief executive of Empty Homes, has written for PSE on how local authorities and housing providers are buying or leasing empty homes in order to bring them back into use.

(Image c. Robert Pittman)

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