South Lakes partners innovative empty homes scheme

Funding has been secured to repeat an innovative grant scheme that helps bring empty homes back into use.


South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has been successful in getting funding to run another round of the Empty Homes Grant Management Scheme, a programme designed to help with repairs to empty homes to provide more affordable housing.


When it was first launched in 2015 one of the properties the scheme funded was the upgrading of a three-bedroomed house in Ulverston, which now provides a home for a young family.


Justine Steel, her partner Will Little and their three children, Alysha, Leon and Alleah are all still enjoying life in the property on Devonshire Road.


The house had been inherited by its current owner, who didnt want to sell the house but was unable to afford the repairs required to bring it up-to-date.


As a result it had stood empty for a number of years and had been identified by SLDCs empty homes officer as a property that could qualify for the Empty Homes Grant Management Scheme.


The house needed roof repairs, wall tie replacements, repointing and new windows, while inside it got a complete re-fit, including a new kitchen and bathroom, new boiler, re-decoration and new carpets throughout.


A £20,000 grant was provided by SLDC through the Empty Homes Grant Management Scheme and work was carried out by scheme partners South Lakes Housing, which found a tenant through the Cumbria Choice lettings scheme.


Under the scheme South Lakes Housing manages the tenancy for five years to provide another much-needed affordable home for rent, while the property owner receives the rental income, less a 10% management charge. At the end of the five years the property is returned to the owner.


SLDC has now secured a further £60,000 funding to run the scheme again, enough to potentially bring three empty homes back into use if the full £20,000 is allocated per property.


Lynne Leach, SLDCs Empty Homes Officer, explained that the new scheme has even more flexibility than before, with owners now able to match-fund repairs up to a further £20,000 if the property needs more spending on it than the grant can cover, meaning the grant fund could potentially unlock £120,000 of repairs for empty properties in South Lakeland.


The property owner can also exit the scheme after two, three or four years if they dont want to be tied in to the full five years, if they pay back a percentage of the grant awarded continued Lynne.


These changes were brought in following feedback, to recognise that peoples situations and circumstances can change and it is now more flexible and suited to more property owners.


Homes in Council Tax bands A-C are particularly suitable for the funding and long-term empty properties in Kendal, Ulverston, Grange, Kirkby Lonsdale, Milnthorpe, Staveley and Burneside are eligible.


Councillor Jonathan Brook, SLDC deputy leader and portfolio holder for Housing and Innovation, said he was delighted the council had been able to secure funding to run the scheme again.


Councillor Brook said: This scheme has always been a real win-win situation for all involved.


The owner gets the property upgraded to a good standard, the council gets to bring an empty home back into use towards our key aim to provide more affordable housing, especially in areas of most need, and the tenant gets a good quality home.


With the new flexibilities around being able to contribute to repair costs and the ability to exit the arrangement earlier than the full five years, hopefully it should appeal to even more property owners.


Alison Kinnon, Director of Customers and Communities at South Lakes Housing, said: This is a fantastic scheme for all concerned.


We are delighted to be invited to partner SLDC once again in this initiative, which helps turn empty properties back into fine homes for local people.


South Lakes Housing will oversee the repairs, find tenants, manage the properties and make sure landlords get regular rent coming in.


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