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Steps to tackle empty property problem

Thursday 24 January 2013 5:00

An initiative has been launched to bring empty, privately owned homes in the region back into use to meet the growing demand for accommodation.

The pilot project, in a key neighbourhood renewal area of Newcastle, is also creating work for local apprentices.

The contract, in Hillsleigh Road, Cowgate, was awarded to AH Property Services by Leazes Homes and is part of a national initiative which has £150m of funding from the Homes and Communities Agency.

Under the scheme, Leazes Homes will ensure the houses are refurbished to the government’s Decent Homes Standard as a minimum and are then let to those in housing need. It is designed to improve neighbourhoods and provide the property owners with an additional source of income.

The contract is the first awarded directly to the construction firm by Leazes Homes - a provider of affordable housing which is partly owned by Newcastle City Council and Your Homes Newcastle.

Keith McDougall, business development director with AH Property Services, which has bases in Newcastle and Middlesbrough, said:  “This may seem a small piece of work but it is important for three reasons.  Firstly it’s the first contract we’ve won directly with this client; secondly it could prove to be a programme which helps provide more affordable housing in the area and if it does, that could lead to more work.

“This is a win, win, win situation.  It makes much needed housing available to local people; it provides work for local companies and an income for the property owners.  Our team, which includes two young apprentices, is very much looking forward to transforming these homes.”

The scope of works includes renewing the electric and heating systems, replacing the kitchens and bathrooms, windows and doors, redecorating and any necessary external works, all of which should be completed by the end of February.

Claire Slater, development officer with Your Homes Newcastle, added:  “There’s a massive shortage of homes in Newcastle and this provides a great opportunity to reduce it. We want to bring empty properties back into use and provide affordable homes for people in need.

“For those who are prepared to lease or sell their empty property to Leazes Homes, we will act as a managing agent, finding suitable tenants, collecting rent, dealing with the administrative and legal side of the tenancy and queries from the tenant while arranging any necessary repairs and maintenance.”