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Homes for a pound: What's Stoke got that Liverpool hasn't?

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Homes for a pound: What's Stoke got that Liverpool hasn't?

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government

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The BBC has investigated why £1 homes have sold in Stoke-on-Trent but not in Liverpool.

Liverpool City Council made 20 empty homes available for just a pound but with the requirements that new owners refurbished the properties and stayed for five years. "But almost a year since the first buyer was handed the keys to his new house in Granby, he has still not moved in," reported the BBC.

It contrasted the situation with a similar scheme in Stoke, where 31 out of 35 homes are now occupied. "The £3m project in the Cobridge area, funded by the government's empty homes scheme, mainly involves two-bedroom terraced properties. There, the council lent buyers the £30,000 needed for renovations and used their own contractors to do the work," it reported.

"I know the state these homes are often left in," explained project manager Zainul Pirmohamed. "We couldn't expect 31 people who are novices to try and tackle that. And thank goodness we did it this way. Once we've gone back to brick, the amount of extra work we have found has been phenomenal."

BBC Radio Merseyside reporter Claire Hamilton praised the Liverpool project as "a great way of helping people get on the property ladder and at the same time revitalise neglected neighbourhoods". But she added: "I wonder if the council repeats the scheme in future whether it would be a better idea to follow Stoke's lead - lending the refurbishment money to the buyers and then carrying out the work with their own contractors, rather than leaving first time buyers with the daunting prospect of a massive restoration project which could go well over budget?"

Liverpool wants to bring almost 180 empty homes back into use. The new homeowners have to prove they can fund around £35,000 renovation costs - within a 12-month deadline – which is "a possible reason why only five families have exchanged contracts so far," the BBC said.

Initially, nearly 3,000 people expressed their interest, which came down to 600 who met the criteria. Ann O'Byrne, Liverpool's cabinet member for housing, said "once they'd seen the level of work involved, they just thought it was too much for them".

The council has allocated a further £6m to bring another 1,000 empty properties back into use.

O'Byrne told the BBC: "It did take longer than we expected, but we've learned from that and we're making much more progress."

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