New drive to get empty homes in Norwich back into use

Owners of long-term empty homes in the city are being urged to sign up to a community scheme to bring vacant houses back into use.

The scheme will see all necessary work on the homes done in return for the home being let to city charity St Martin's Housing Trust, so local people can get a roof over their heads.

The project is being run in partnership with Norwich City Council, St Martin's Housing Trust, LEAP, Building Futures in Norwich and CTS Ltd.

Construction trainees from Building Futures and CTS Ltd will carry out the work on the homes, which council bosses said brought the added advantage of jobs and training.

Funding for the project has been secured by St Martins Housing Trust from the Empty Homes Community Grants Programme of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Owners of empty properties who enter the scheme will benefit from:

• Getting a renovated property, without the responsibility for ensuring the works are carried out

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• A guaranteed rental income on a 10 year lease, without having to worry about management responsibilities

• Not having to pay overall rates, with council tax discount for long-term empty homes having been discontinued.

Victoria MacDonald, portfolio holder for housing at Norwich City Council, said: 'We urge owners with no immediate plans for making their disused properties habitable to make the most of this golden opportunity of receiving rental income without having to carry out repair works or manage the lease.

'Anyone interested should get in touch as soon as possible - there is a limit to the number of properties we can enter into the scheme and it's an offer too good to miss.'

The city council currently contacts owners of properties that have remained unoccupied for more than six months to establish why this is.

If the owner can't put forward a credible plan for re-occupation of the property, the council will consider making a compulsory purchase order under the Town and County Planning Act, so the new scheme is an alternative to that.

• Do you have a council story? Call Norwich Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email