Durham County Council is considering buying up empty properties to help those facing homelessness.
The council’s cabinet will next week be asked to approve a request for £500,000 to buy and renovate ten empty properties.
In addition to helping those affected by homelessness, the council wishes to reduce the number of properties standing empty in County Durham. This is because empty and neglected houses can have a bad impact on communities by attracting anti-social behaviour, marring the local environment and bringing down house prices.
If purchased, the ten properties would remain assets of the council, but would be leased to organisations that help people affected by homelessness secure and maintain tenancies.
If the project is successful, more bids for funding will be made so that more empty properties can be brought back into use to help those who are homeless or insecurely housed.
The council has already applied for government grants and hopes that the £500,000 it is prepared to spend may attract additional funding from partners such as the police, the probation service and clinical commissioning groups.
Durham County Council’s cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, Cllr Kevin Shaw, said, “This is a really worthwhile project as it has the potential to make a real difference to people’s lives.”
“It not only helps those in need, including families in crisis, but it will reduce the number of empty homes in County Durham. These are both key priorities for us and form part of our strategic housing plan.”
2017’s Homelessness Reduction Act places an obligation on councils to make sure that anyone who is at risk of homelessness – and eligible for assistance – has access to meaningful help.
In 2018/19, the council placed around 50 households in bed and breakfast accommodation. If more empty homes were made available, such families could be given appropriate housing far more quickly.
Durham County Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the £500,000 of funding when it meets at the Glebe Centre in Murton, near Seaham, on Wednesday 16th January. If the funding request is approved, councillors will then receive regular progress reports on the project.
(Featured image courtesy of Todd Porter, from Flickr Creative Commons.)