A SCHEME to turn empty properties into affordable housing has attracted criticism from some Cheadle councillors. The plan - to buy unused properties and rent them out - is set to focus on Cheadle North East as well as wards in Leek and Biddulph. But councillors for the Cheadle ward expressed doubts over the proposals.
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) announced a £1 million partnership with housing association Empowering People Inspiring Communities (EPIC) this week.
Under the North Staffordshire Rent to Buy Scheme, EPIC are set to buy and repair properties which have been empty for six months and make them available for affordable rents for five years during which the occupants can save a deposit with the view to buying their home.
Councillor for Cheadle North East, Peter Wilkinson, said: “This is too little too late.
“They should be focusing on building more affordable homes instead – increasing affordable housing on new developments.
“I don’t know what houses they are looking at in the North East ward of Cheadle but I expect it will be the lower end ones such as terraced houses.
“But if they start buying those kinds of properties, how can young people get into the housing market?
“There is no doubt that there are young people currently saving up to buy such properties but if the council start buying them then it will push the house prices up.”
Figures show there are currently 155 empty properties in the wards of Cheadle North East, Biddulph East, Leek North and Leek East – and 57 of these have been unoccupied for more than two years.
Councillor Mike Bowen, SMDC cabinet member for housing, said: “Leaving properties empty when, with a little care and attention, they could be returned to use as homes makes no sense when we know there is a need for affordable accommodation in the Moorlands.
“Being able to afford a home of our own is a dream many of us have and schemes such as this make that dream more achievable.
“If we’re also able to reduce the number of long-term empty properties in the district and increase the homes available at affordable rent at the same that can only be good news.”
Cheadle North West councillor Ian Whitehouse said: “This does sound like a good idea but I am a bit sceptical about the outcome of it.
“It’s alright saying it’s a good idea to purchase empty properties but they will have to pay market value for them, and if that is the case, why don’t people who want them just buy them as they are?
“This does seem a strange approach.
“I have a list of young people wanting houses but most are struggling to get a deposit.
“If anything developers should be doing their bit – they gain the planning permission with a condition for some affordable homes, but then go back to the council saying it’s not viable for them to provide such a percentage of low cost homes, and get the numbers decreased.
“I also think that the district council should perhaps be looking at larger empty buildings which could possibly be revamped and turned into flats for low cost housing.”
EPIC will consider properties requiring no more than £100,000 – £125,000 overall investment, for the scheme. Empty property owners can find further information at www.northstaffsrenttobuy.co.uk.
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