07 August 2012>
Houses to Homes is a new scheme which will provide interest-free loans to improve the condition of empty private properties and bring them back into use.
It is part of a Welsh Government £10 million recyclable loan fund launched to help bring 5,000 empty private homes across Wales back into use over the next three years. The scheme is being administered on a regional basis and Gwent has been allocated up to £1.7 million to support local empty homes strategies.
Across Gwent, over 3,000 homes had been empty for at least six months at the beginning of April this year. At the same time, there were more than 20,000 applications for affordable housing on local authority housing registers.
Loans of up to £25,000 per unit, with a maximum of £150,000 per applicant, are available so properties can be returned to a condition where they can be let or sold.
The loans fund was one of the demands of Channel 4's "Great British Property Scandal" campaign led by architect and independent empty homes adviser George Clarke.
Private homes become empty for many reasons including relationship breakdown, ill-health or death. It can often take months or even years to resolve ownership issues but in many cases, a house or flat remains empty because it needs some work to make it fit for occupation. The Houses to Homes money will help to unlock those empty houses or flats which could provide a home at a time of overall housing shortage.
To qualify, a property should have been empty for at least six months but it need not have been owned by the applicant for that period. The aim is to help anyone who can repay the loan within two or three years, whether they are already owners, or developers who are considering the purchase of a property.
In most cases, the money can be paid upfront in order to fund the improvement works and will be repaid either when the property is sold, or by re-financing based on the improved capital value of the property and the rental income.
As loans are repaid, the money will be recycled back into the scheme to provide further funding.
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