£3.5M to unlock empty homes in Ashfield

ASHFIELD has scooped a grant of nearly £3.5m to bring hundreds of the district’s empty homes back into use.

The bumper cash windfall is the third largest given to any local authority in the country and means Ashfield District Council will be able to work with landlords to restore 285 empty properties.

Council chiefs say refurbishing the homes will enable folk on waiting lists to be housed more quickly and help improve run-down parts of the district.

Ashfield council leader John Knight said they had been ‘phenomenally successful’ with the bid and described receiving such a large amount of money as a ‘massive boost’.

“This is about genuinely getting these houses back into the market for the next two to three generations,” he said.

“We don’t want to see any chipboard anywhere in any windows in the district!”

The grant has been awarded by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) and totals £3,492,000.

It was applied for by a consortium led by the district council, meaning that in addition to the 285 properties being brought back into use in Ashfield, repairs to 30 units for Mansfield District Council and 30 for Newark and Sherwood District Council, will also be funded.

To qualify for a share of the grant, a property - either a house, flat, bungalow or shop that could be converted into housing - must have been empty for more than six months.

The council will fund 50 per cent of the cost of the work needed to bring the home back into occupation, with the landlord paying the other 50 per cent.

Repairs will be administered by the council and the work is subject to the landlord entering a 10-year lease agreement with the authority.

This will ensure long-term sustainability and protect public money from potential rogue landlords.

Said Coun Knight: “It’s not about giving money to the landlords.

“With match-funding there will be £7m and so it should go even further.”

The council already has a good track record in bringing empty homes back into use and has employed specialist staff who have mapped the location of empty properties in the district for 10 years.

Coun Knight said that the grant will build upon this success, with the aim to make Ashfield seen as an aspirational place to live.

“There are a lot of Victorian terraces and sub-1920s properties in the district and they can fall under the radar,” he said.

“People don’t want to spend a lot of money doing them up but two or three streets like that can bring an entire town down.”

Coun Steven Carroll, portfolio holder for housing, said that tackling the empty homes problem will also help deal with associated issues such as anti-social behaviour and the provision of decent homes for residents.

“It will bring up our communities and I am really excited about what we are going to do,” he said.

“You cannot underestimate the difference it will make.

“It is an opportunity not just to address the corporate priority of housing, but also anti-social behaviour and regeneration.”

Any landlord interested in participating in the scheme should contact Ashfield District Council on Mansfield 457205, freephone on 0800 3280356 or email emptyhomes@ashfield-dc.gov.uk.