Empty homes in Tower Hamlets could lead to cash bonuses

Tower Hamlet’s residents can take advantage of a new government scheme if they can find a way to use empty homes across the borough.

Communities Minister Andrew Stunnel announced yesterday that the government will match the council tax raised for any empty properties which are brought back into use.

That can then be spent however residents wish and could be used to improve the local area.

Government figures from October 2009 show that Tower Hamlets has more empty homes, which can be targets for vandalism and squatters, than any other London borough - 4,203.

The next placed borough is Croydon with 4,066 unused homes and neighbouring borough Hackney has 3,840.

Mr Stunnel said: ““Empty properties should be treated as an asset and brought back into use for those families that need somewhere to live. “It’s vital that local communities, councils and owners of empty properties work together to bring properties back into use and begin to tackle this problem that is blighting our local communities.”

The Government said the New Homes Bonus will supplement �100m previously announced to go to housing associations to bring empty properties back into use. One success story in Tower Hamlets is Sumner House in Watts Grove, a long-term empty property which the Phoenix Community Housing Co-operative turned into social housing.

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The co-op renovated its four ground-floor flats which suffered from chronic rising damp between April 2009 and September 2009.

They used volunteers to make the properties fit for living at a cheaper cost than that previously quoted by owners Poplar HARCA.

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