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Families find new homes thanks to innovative Empty to Plenty scheme
Tuesday 30th May, 2017

Derelict properties in Wigan Borough have been given an impressive makeover, providing homes for residents in need of affordable housing.

Three homes in Goose Green had been left vandalised and empty after Irene Heyes inherited them from her late father, leading to complaints of the properties being an eyesore by local residents.

Unable to raise the money to carry out the extensive renovation work needed, Irene applied for an interest free loan from Wigan Council’s ‘Empty to Plenty’ scheme funded by the Homes and Communities Agency.

Irene was heavily involved in the project from start to finish and decided to turn the block into six apartments, comprising of three one-bedroom and three two-bedroom units.

Speaking about the application process and renovations, Irene said: “We cannot thank Wigan Council enough for their help in turning my Dad’s wishes into a reality.

“Turning the properties into flats was something he talked about doing, but circumstances meant that this never happened. After I inherited the houses, it was only right I looked into finding the funds to make this possible. We have called the flats ‘Heyes Homes’ as a tribute to my father and I couldn’t be happier with the work that has been arranged by council employees.”

Works on the flats started in June 2016 and all six units were leased to the council and let by April 2017. The loan is being repaid from the rental income.

The council’s ‘Empty to Plenty’ scheme was launched in 2013 and 44 properties have been transformed to date, with funding still available to complete another 13 homes by the end of March 2018.

The innovative scheme is helping to reduce the number of empty private sector homes in the borough.

Anees Mank, housing service manager at Wigan Council said: “This scheme is a great way of helping local people and transforming communities. When a property is empty, it becomes a blot on the landscape and is at risk of anti-social behaviour, which was evident in Irene’s case.

“Bringing empty homes and buildings back into use provides both much-needed affordable housing for families and individuals who really need them and visible benefits to the local community.”

Helping to make ‘Heyes Homes’ a reality was the final project for housing officer Martin O’Brien, who has recently retired from the council after 42 years’ of dedicated service.

Wigan Council also uses other powers to address empty private sector homes which have been empty for the long-term.

This includes a 150 per cent charge of council tax for homes which have been empty for more than two years and compulsory purchase orders for homes which are empty and causing a neighbourhood nuisance. These homes are then sold at auction.

The council also has a successful record in keeping its council stock of 22,000 homes occupied.

Latest figures show there are just over 300 of these homes empty – just over 1 per cent of the stock, which represents a normal figure for tenant turnover.

Wigan Council also aims to address renovations and repairs while a council-owned home is empty so that it is ready for the next tenant.

Any owners with properties empty for more than a year, who wish to register their interest in the scheme, can email psh@wigan.gov.uk or ring 01942 489220.

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