A reluctant decision to sell our empty properties
We are reluctantly asking the Homes and Communities Agency for permission to sell off a number of empty homes in Co Durham.
The homes are in two villages in the Easington area; Horden and Blackhall, and we have been working closely with Durham County Council and local residents to secure their future.
There are 30 empty homes in Blackhall, and 130 in Horden. Unfortunately, they are not sustainable because of a lack of demand due to the type of property they are. There is a lot of rented housing in these villages and we have no demand for our two up, two down Victorian terraced houses. Welfare reform, particularly the bedroom tax, may also have reduced demand as the largest market for these homes was single people who are now finding them unaffordable because of the housing benefit changes.
It’s not about the condition of these homes. We have invested £8.6m in the area on our bungalows, which are in demand. If there was demand for the street terraces, we would be investing in them.
As part of our regulatory obligations, like all housing associations, we must ensure that our homes are sustainable for the long term. Unfortunately, these properties are not. We are hoping many of them will be purchased by would-be homeowners under a homesteading initiative, (where homes are sold at a discount to new owners on the condition they live in them for a number of years). This enables people to get on the property ladder and helps to make the local community more stable.
The homes will not be sold on the open market for £1 as the media has reported. We only offered them at this price to Durham County Council as part of an asset transfer.
Claire Stone, Director of Communities and Assets, said: “We have worked really hard to find the best possible solution for these homes and have had a dedicated project team in place with Durham County Council and the Homes and Communities Agency to explore a range of options, from transfer to another housing association to discounted sales to residents, but unfortunately none has proved possible. We have therefore reluctantly decided to dispose of the properties as they fall empty. We will continue to work closely with our residents and the local community to ensure that they are fully supported throughout this process.
“As a responsible social landlord, we need to ensure that our stock is fit for the future. We have to secure the best possible value for money for all of our residents and our robust asset management strategy has shown that investing in these properties would not be sustainable for us as a social landlord.”