An ambitious new scheme to fill empty homes and provide much needed affordable accommodation in north Norfolk is being launched.

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Cromer Community Land Trust will let properties at 85pc of the market rent and is looking for socially conscious landlords to sign-up to the scheme.

The Trust is being set up by Norfolk Rural Community Council (NRCC) in response to the current high cost of renting, which is affecting the whole of the UK.

The proposals were agreed following a series of public meetings in north Norfolk last month.

NRCC project officer Barry Duffin will now take steps to officially form the Trust, which is part financed by the Norfolk Coast Partnership and will focus on Cromer, Blakeney and Hunstanton in its first year.

The Trust is initially looking for empty properties to let but eventually hopes to build new homes once it has established land and assets.

Mr Duffin said: “There are a lot of empty properties out there. Far more than anybody realises. There are a lot of shops with empty flats above them that would make somebody a nice home.

“We would like to hear from any kind landlords who have available properties and would like to work with us.

“It could be someone who has a second home they don’t use and would rather have somebody living in it than have it standing empty for years. Or maybe a landlord who says ‘Here is my house and you can keep the rent for a year because I think this is something really good and we can get it going’. There are people like that out there.

“We would prefer landlords to have the properties in a liveable state because the land trust won’t have fund initially to do any work.”

Mr Duffin said NRCC was inspired to launch the Trust by the successful Homes for Wells scheme, which, since its launch in 2006, has provided housing for more than 50 people.

He said the scheme made money by managing properties and introducing tenants to landlords and had also received generous donations, including entire houses. He said he hoped Cromer Community Land Trust could operate in a similar way and eventually expand to cover a wider area.

Cromer mayor Gwen Smith welcomed the news. She said lower rents would benefit the whole community as people would have more disposable income which could be spent in the local economy.

She added: “People are struggling with high rents all over the country at the moment. Anything that can be done to improve things will be good.”

Tony Faulkner, Blakeney Parish Council chairman said they had attended a meeting with the NRCC to discuss the issue of land trusts but that was as far as it had gone.

Trevor Ivory, housing portfolio holder for North Norfolk District Council, said; “We welcome any initiative that looks to increase the amount of affordable housing and housing generally in the district.”

The Trust is now seeking people with specialist skills to give their time for free, including accountants, solicitors and housing officers. People struggling to find affordable accommodation are also encouraged to get in touch.

For more details ring Mr Duffin on 01362 698216 or 07734 261251 or email barry@norfolkrcc.org.uk.

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