A SCHEME to bring empty properties back into use is proving to be a big success in one town with 40 homes being bought up for renovation.

Hartlepool Borough Council is working in partnership with Housing Hartlepool and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to target privately-owned properties that have been vacant for six months or more.

The aim is to buy properties that are in a poor state of repair and refurbish them before they are put back on the market.

The £5.8m Empty Property Purchasing Scheme which is funded jointly by the council and the HCA, aims to bring 100 properties back into use by March 2014.

It has already achieved 40 per cent of its acquisitions target.

Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “Run-down properties that look unsightly can discourage investment in an area and prompt a spiral of decline that can ultimately require far greater intervention.

“I am delighted with the progress of this scheme which will also eventually lead to an improved supply of good quality, affordable and well managed family accommodation across the town."

Properties purchased via the scheme, which is part of the council’s wider Empty Homes Strategy, are refurbished by the council’s own workers – five new jobs have been created as a result – and the new-look homes are then managed by Housing Hartlepool on the council’s behalf.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director of regeneration and planning, said: “Our preference is to work with landlords, but they should be aware that we are also prepared to take enforcement action to secure improvements to their properties if they refuse to co-operate with us.”

Mark Dutton, Housing Hartlepool’s head of regeneration, said: “By concentrating our work in areas where the council and Housing Hartlepool have invested substantial funds into regeneration schemes and new developments over many years, we hope to safeguard this investment and improve the long-term vitality and sustainability of neighbourhoods.”

Landlords with an empty property who are interested in getting involved in the scheme, can contact Martin Spaldin, the council’s empty homes officer, on 01429-523288 for further information.

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