Help for owners of empty properties

THE Vale of Glamorgan Council has joined forces with Cardiff Council to help owners of empty properties in the area bring them back into use.

Under the Welsh Government’s Houses into Homes scheme, the Vale and Cardiff are inviting owners of empty properties, or those thinking of buying an empty property in the area to apply for interest-free loans to pay for any renovation work that may be required to return them to use as homes again.

Owners can apply for up to £25,000 per unit of accommodation and up to a maximum of £150,000 in total, to bring them back into use again by carrying out repairs or improvements that will enable them to sell or let a property. Loans are not available for people wanting to renovate a property and live in it as their principal home.

In the Vale, there are more than 900 homes that have been vacant for six or more months, and 15 per cent of these have been empty for more than five years, while seven per cent have been empty for more than nine years.

The Vale’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety, Cllr Bronwen Brooks, said: “The availability of the loan is a great opportunity for councils to provide practical support to owners of empty properties to help them to turn that wasted resource back into a home. By helping to return the empty property back into a home, it provides both much needed accommodation to support housing needs and helps reduce the problems a community can face living with an empty home in their neighbourhood. Through working jointly with Cardiff, it is hoped that owners take this opportunity and see benefits for themselves too.”

In Cardiff, over 1,200 private homes have been vacant for more than six months, and a fifth of these have been empty for more than five years, while one in 14 have been empty for more than nine years.

The scheme, which aims to tackle social issues and meet housing demand in Wales, has already helped a number of empty home owners in the city return their property to use. In Cardiff, the former Cow and Snuffers pub, which closed in July 2010, is currently being converted into five two-bedroom apartments by Doublet Holdings Limited who were awarded a loan of £125,000 in March 2013.

Lawrence Dovey of Doublet Holdings, said: “We found the loan process relatively simple and the money certainly aided cash flow during the conversion. The loan has helped inject new life into one of Cardiff’s iconic landmarks, where five unique apartments have been created. Now that the project has come to a conclusion we are delighted with the result and confident that the property has been sympathetically converted. People will now be able to enjoy the use of this interesting building, once more, which has easy access to Hailey Park and the Taff Trail.

Two units have already been sold 'off plan' and with strong interest in the remaining three units; it is testament to the quality of product achieved.”

Cardiff Council cabinet member for communities, housing and neighbourhood renewal, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: “This is a great opportunity for owners of empty properties to apply for an interest free loan. There are many reasons why properties can be empty for long periods – it may be that someone has inherited a property and doesn’t really know what to do with it. But whatever the reason, these properties are a wasted resource and can cause problems in a community whether as a magnet for vandalism or anti-social behaviour or as an eyesore if they have fallen into a state of disrepair.

“Together with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, we are offering owners the opportunity to access funds to be able to upgrade their properties and return the property to the market for sale or rental at the same time as helping to meet housing needs in the area and improving our neighbourhoods.”

To apply for a loan, the property must have been empty for a minimum of six months and the loan must be repaid within two or three years depending on whether the property is sold or let.

Funding is available until mid March 2014.

For further information about the Houses into Homes Scheme , owners of properties in the Vale of Glamorgan can contact the empty property officer Georgina Wayman on 01446 709 838.

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