Stoke-on-Trent empty homes purchase offer plans

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Empty homes in Stoke-on-Trent could be offered to residents for a "nominal fee" in a bid to improve neighbourhoods under plans by the city council.

The authority is looking at accepting and match-funding a £3.6m government grant awarded last year.

It would offer prospective owners a loan of up to £30,000 to improve the properties on the understanding they live there for a certain period.

The council said there were more than 4,700 vacant dwellings in 2011.

If the cabinet gives the scheme the green light, the areas around Portland Street, Hanley, and Bond Street, Tunstall, will be the first to be looked at next year.

Analysis

Stoke-on-Trent has a lot of empty houses.

The city's been hit hard by the government's decision to scrap the Pathfinder programme - which would have seen thousands of homes demolished and replaced with new builds.

In some parts of the city it's been successful, but it's left big areas in limbo - full of boarded-up houses that were bought by the city council so they could be pulled down with government cash that's no longer available.

This proposal shows how desperate the council is to get people back into those neighbourhoods.

But it also signals a definite end to a scheme that was supposed to transform the city - but is far from achieving its original aims.

The Labour-led authority's cabinet member for housing, neighbourhoods and community safety, councillor Janine Bridges, said they wanted to breath new life into the properties to "improve the living standards of homes".

She said: "The idea would mean the council sells empty properties acquired with Housing Market Renewal Grant for a nominal fee and provide new home owners with a loan of up to £30,000 to implement a series of improvement works that the council deems necessary to bring the property back to a decent home standard.

"Owners of long term empty homes may also be offered a loan with the same conditions.

"This money would then be paid back to the council as part of a loan repayment scheme and reinvested to improve other empty properties in the city.

"If agreed by cabinet, the council will consult with local residents and empty property owners about the plans with a view to starting the scheme in 2013."

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