Shepway District Council is a founding member of the award winning No Use Empty scheme, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. The initiative, managed by Kent County Council, offers interest free loans to the owners of empty homes to help with refurbishment costs.

In recognition of the success of the scheme to date, the work that still has to be done and the significant negative impact that empty homes have on residents, Shepway District Council is increasing the loan available from £25,000 to £40,000 for each home bought back into use.

Cllr Alan Ewart-James, Shepway’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Empty properties blight our streets. The No Use Empty initiative has been a fantastic success in bringing properties back into use, providing much-needed homes and ridding neighbourhoods of eyesores.alanej

“Shepway District Council has set aside £400,000 in this year’s budget to top-up the loans offered by Kent County Council, giving owners access to up to £40,000 for every home they bring back into use. It’s just part of our targeted programme of direct action to reduce the numbers of empty homes in Shepway.”

Empty homes are often in a poor state of repair, which means that no one wants to live in them. This situation becomes worse as everyday repairs are not done and the property becomes more dilapidated.

With an average price tag of £43,000 for refurbishment, owners may find they can’t afford to bring their property back into use without a loan. A bank loan will be based on the pre-refurbishment valuation of the property which may leave no funds for the renovations.Hythe Hg St Staircase (finished)Hythe Hg St Staircase (before)

This was the situation for Leo Griggs, Director of Kent based Alliance Building Company. His company has recently renovated two luxury flats in Hythe High Street.

Leo explains: “The property had been used as a gym and had been empty for 7 or 8 years so there was a lot of work needed to refurbish and convert it. Without the No Use Empty loan the development would have been unviable. But we knew the site had lots of potential – as you can see from the finished product – the loan allowed us to unlock this potential. One couple are about to move in and the other flat is for sale.” Hythe Hg St Kitchen (finished)