Stoke and Liverpool £1 homes: Are schemes a success?
- 6 August 2014
- From the section England
It's 18 months since Liverpool launched its £1 homes scheme, so why has no-one moved in while bargain-hungry homeowners in Stoke-on-Trent are rushing to buy the same reasonably-priced roosts?
Liverpool City Council launched its pilot scheme to buy a house for £1 in a blaze of publicity.
The council offered the chance to buy one of 20 empty homes for the small sum if the new owners pledged to refurbish them and stay for at least five years.
But almost a year since the first buyer was handed the keys to his new house in Granby, he has still not moved in.
Meanwhile, a similar scheme in Stoke-on-Trent is almost complete, with 31 out of 35 homes occupied.
The £3m project in the Cobridge area, funded by the government's Empty Homes Scheme, mainly involves two-bedroom terraced properties.
There, the council lent buyers the £30,000 needed for renovations and used their own contractors to do the work.
"I know the state these homes are often left in," explained project manager Zainul Pirmohamed. "We couldn't expect 31 people who are novices to try and tackle that.
"And thank goodness we did it this way. Once we've gone back to brick, the amount of extra work we have found has been phenomenal.
"We've been able to tackle those issues, we've got a big specialist pool of staff.
"These people who are buying haven't got the money to throw towards it, so we knew they would not have been able to do it."
'Devil in the detail'
By Claire Hamilton, political reporter, BBC Radio Merseyside
Liverpool's homes for £1 scheme was launched with a huge fanfare last year.
And rightly so. A great way of helping people get on the property ladder and at the same time revitalise neglected neighbourhoods.
The devil (and delay) appears to have been in the detail.
I wonder if the council repeats the scheme in future whether it would be a better idea to follow Stoke's lead - lending the refurbishment money to the buyers and then carrying out the work with their own contractors, rather than leaving first time buyers with the daunting prospect of a massive restoration project which could go well over budget?
It also means the homeowners will have repaid the loan in 10 years, a thought that delights Gavin Pierpont.
"I'll be mortgage-free by the time I'm 36," he said.
"Not renting and mortgage-free, a bonus on all fronts."
Contractors have finished his new house and it just needs decorating.
"It's bare plaster but it's all ready for painting, it's just getting round to doing it until its move-inable.
"It's up to me to just make it a home."
His neighbour Rachel Nieto is set to move in with her boyfriend Chris and said borrowing from the council worked for them.
"We wanted to move in together but it's quite hard to get a deposit, this just seemed like a really good opportunity to be able to do it," she said.
Liverpool's pilot scheme is part of a plan to bring 179 empty homes back into use in the Granby, Picton and Arnside Road areas of the city.
Properties have been empty for many years and have been stripped of pipe work, fixtures and fittings.
'Have a go'
New homeowners have to show the council how they will fund the estimated £35,000 renovation costs - within a 12-month deadline - a possible reason why only five families have exchanged contracts so far.
Ann O'Byrne, Liverpool's cabinet member for housing, said they were "absolutely overwhelmed" when nearly 3,000 people expressed their interest, of which 600 met the criteria to grab a £1 house.
But she added "once they'd seen the level of work involved, they just thought it was too much for them," and many dropped out.
Married father-of-two Jayalal Madde, is the first new homeowner, currently renovating his house on Cairns Street in Granby.
Following delays with insurance companies, he is now hoping to move in within a couple of months.
"We had delays but my wife and daughters are very excited to move in," he said.
Liverpool City Council has admitted it has not been an easy ride, but stressed the scheme is a pilot and lessons are being learned.
A further £6m has been promised to bring another 1,000 empty properties back into use across the city.
Ms O'Byrne said: "It did take longer than we expected, but we've learned from that and we're making much more progress.
"We'll be looking at how we actually do some of that structural work to enable people to come in and do more of the cosmetic work to bring the properties back into use.
"We're trying different models to encourage people to get on to the property ladder and just have a go."
What else can you buy for £1?