Empty homes scheme success for North Ayrshire Council

North Ayrshire Council newAn initiative to bring long-term vacant properties back into use in North Ayrshire has landed its first success.

North Ayrshire Council bought an empty property which was in need of major repairs as part of the Empty Homes Buy Back Scheme.

After lying empty for almost five years, it has now been given a new lease of life and is being occupied by a proud tenant.

The scheme was introduced in North Ayrshire as part of a drive to improve properties which have been vacant for long periods of time and have become a blight on the community. Long-term empty properties can easily become a magnet for anti-social behaviour and vandalism.

The council’s empty homes co-ordinator worked alongside the owner to complete the purchase. The property has now been completely restored - including a new kitchen, windows, ceilings and bathroom making it a home to be proud of once more.

Yvonne Baulk, head of service (physical environment), said: “This is a fantastic initiative and hopefully the first of many properties that are restored and brought back to use.

“Nobody wants to live in a neighbourhood which has lots of empty homes. They can be a public nuisance and attract a lot of problems. It’s good to see what can be achieved and hopefully this Buy Back Scheme, along with our other initiatives, will help reduce this problem.”

To be considered for a Buy Back, properties must be empty for six months or more and be ex-local authority stock within North Ayrshire Council estates.

The council operates a loans fund using £200,000 from the Scottish Government to provide interest free loans to help owners repair or upgrade their house for sale or lease.

In addition to the Buy Back Scheme, there are a number of initiatives that aim to help property owners find new tenants or sell their properties. The Matchmaker Scheme also helps empty home owners get in contact with other property owners in North Ayrshire.

With these measures and initiatives in place, councillors agreed to a change in the council tax levy at a meeting of Cabinet in September 2015.

It was agreed that from 1 April 2016 Council Tax will be increased to 150% on properties that have been empty for a year or more. The increase will also be applicable to properties that have been marketed for sale but have been empty for at least two years. This will rise to 200% from 1 April 2017.

All owners have been advised of this change.

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