Published: 10:17, 08 May 2018
| Updated: 10:19, 08 May 2018
A pioneering strategy to bring empty homes back to life to help ease the housing crisis, has won a top award.
Kent County Council's No Use Empty initiative won the outstanding approach to regeneration category at the UK Housing Awards.
Organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing, it is the most prestigious awards in the UK housing sector.
The judges identified No Use Empty as the UK’s most innovative and impactful regeneration programme, delivering over 5,400 new homes since its launch in 2005.
The scheme, which has provided the template for national policy on empty homes, pioneered the use of interest-free loans to help refurbish empty properties and return them to use.
Owners can apply for short term secured loans up to £25,000 per unit - or up to £40,000 in Folkestone and Hythe, Dover and Tunbridge Wells - which are repayable in three years.
To date, through the initiative, Kent have awarded £21.6 million loans attracting an additional £26.3m from the private sector to bring long term empty properties back into use.
In more recent years, No Use Empty (NUE) has provided the capital to facilitate the refurbishment of empty commercial buildings, with several former pubs, schools and even churches now returned to provide much needed housing.
KCC cabinet member for economic development Mark Dance said: "The initiative has been unqualified success, creating over 5,400 new homes since 2005, at a fraction of the cost of building new ones.
“But it’s not just about bricks and mortar. Derelict properties become a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour, depreciate the value of nearby properties and deter investment. NUE is therefore having a regenerative effect on towns and communities across Kent.
“I would like to thank everyone involved in the scheme, and encourage the owners of empty properties across Kent to continue to work with us to create the homes people need.”
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