THE first Thurrock residents are benefitting from a plan to help landlords bring empty homes back into use.
The empty homes programme provides owners with up to £50,000 in grants and loans to bring unused homes up to a good standard. In return the owner agrees that Thurrock Council can let the property and provide much-needed accommodation in the borough.
The maximum funding available to the landlord depends on the size of the home – ranging from £30,000 for a one bedroom property to £50,000 for a three bedroom home. Half the money is a grant that does not have to be repaid while the other half is an interest-free loan.
The funding is only available to homes that have been empty for more than six months. The first property to be brought back into use – in Grays – was vacant because it needed major repair works to make it habitable. The owner could not afford to fund the work alone.
The property owner, who did not wish to be named, said: “The council scheme not only gave me the support I needed to get essential building works done, but the council introduced me to new tenants. Without this scheme, I would have left the property empty. I would definitely use it again.”
The combined grant and loan for that property is £31,160 and the works carried out included new roofing, loft insulation, a new bathroom suite, electrical rewiring and a new kitchen.
Tenant Ayten Dormush, who moved in with her two children recently, said: “I was very happy because I was homeless and in a bad situation. I am so pleased with the help the council has given me and pleased with the house we have been given. My children are much happier because of the space we have in our new home.”
Housing portfolio holder Cllr Lynn Worrall said: “In this tough housing climate we cannot stand by while properties lie empty. This programme helps homeless people into good-quality homes, landlords return their properties to a habitable state with the guarantee of eager tenants and the council meets the needs of its community.
“We all know that if properties stay empty for long they can come to blight the neighbourhood so restoring some to positive use benefits the wider community as well.”
Another property is nearing completion while work is about to start on a third and at least one other application is anticipated.