National Empty Homes Week, which begins today, Monday March 4th, is being marked in Kent with the news that Kent County Council’s (KCC’s) No Use Empty (NUE) initiative has brought nearly 9 thousand empty properties back into use.

Empty properties in the county represent a wasted resource, financial expense and, in many cases, a missed opportunity to provide much needed affordable housing. And a further £7.5 million of funding is still available through the continued support and success of KCC’s short term secured loan fund, which is available to those who own a long-term empty property and wish to renovate it to let or to sell.

As the longest-running empty property initiative in the country, NUE retains the aim of reducing the number of empty dwellings that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for over six months. Delivered by KCC, in partnership with all 12 district councils, NUE provides a model which can be replicated offering financial assistance alongside advice and guidance. The Kent approach has also been adopted by Medway Council and Southend on Sea City Council, who both access the services of the NUE team to provide back-office support for their respective loan schemes.

Its co-ordinated approach has returned 8,815 empty homes back into use across Kent through a range of interventions including short-term secured loans to provide good quality housing. The short-term secured loans have reached £59.4 million which has leveraged an additional £43.8 million from the public and private sectors, giving a total investment of £103.2 million to date.

The Loan Fund operates on a recyclable basis. As soon as loans are repaid the fund is replenished and can effectively be “loaned” again.

Kent County Council member Derek Murphy

“National Empty Homes Week is a fantastic opportunity to promote all the good work across the county.” Derek Murphy Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development

Derek Murphy, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said:

“Initiatives such as No Use Empty are becoming increasingly important in these challenging times. Whilst we are not the local housing authority, the funding KCC makes available and the joined-up approach taken with our district colleagues is having a broader impact, particularly on the local economy. It’s not just about bringing that empty property back into use.

“National Empty Homes Week is a fantastic opportunity to promote all the good work across the county.  It has been another busy year powering through the £100m mark but the team are ready to accept new applications to bring more empty properties back into use. The availability of short-term secured loans to developers keen to help solve the housing shortage in this way is making a huge difference.”

Steve Grimshaw, KCC Strategic Programme Manager, said:

“NUE regularly present to landlord forums held across the County. There is real enthusiasm from landlords and local developers who are accessing the scheme to borrow short-term finance to bring those empty properties back into use for what are essentially brand-new homes.

“On average we have 60-70 schemes on the go across the county at any one time and we have more schemes to come.”

For more information, visit the NUE website: https://www.no-use-empty.org.uk/

By Ed

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