A retired couple from Newcastle-under-Lyme have received some good news during lockdown following work to bring a long term empty property back into use.
Carer Dorothy Croxford, 75, has been confined to the ground floor of the town house cottage she shares with partner David Goodwin in Kidsgrove since the start of the year due to health issues, but now they are set to move into a refurbished bungalow in Talke thanks to a partnership project involving the Borough Council, Homes England and a registered social landlord that provides good quality housing choices for people on lower incomes.
The Council facilitated the purchase of the neglected two-bedroom bungalow, situated at Westmorland Avenue, on behalf of Empowering People Inspiring Communities (EPIC) after it had stood vacant for more than 13 years and subsequently fallen into a state of disrepair, attracting unwanted attention.
Housing officers worked with the previous owner who decided to sell the property. Following completion in March 2020, and despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought, it has been given a makeover which includes double glazed windows and central heating, a bathroom with walk-in shower and a new kitchen.
Dorothy’s health has resulted in her sleeping on the settee as she is no longer able to use the stairs. Meanwhile, partner David, 58, was diagnosed with lewy body dementia three months ago and wakes up regularly during the night as part of his condition.
Dorothy (pictured above with David) said: “We’re really happy to be the new tenants of this lovely bungalow and can’t wait to move in. I can’t use stairs anymore, and need to reach David at night, so this is going to be completely life changing for us. The rooms are so big and we now have a front and back garden, instead of a little yard, so David is planning to get into gardening which will be really good for him.”
Working with registered housing providers to buy and renovate empty homes is one way the Council is helping to reduce the number of them in the borough. Other options include encouraging reuse through information, support and incentives as well as enforcement action – as a last resort – to reduce adverse impacts on neighbouring properties.
Councillor Helena Maxfield, Cabinet member for community safety and well-being, said: “This is such a fantastic outcome and a great example of how working together can make such a positive difference to people’s quality of life. Empty homes represent waste, financial expense and missed opportunity. They blight communities, can attract anti-social behaviour and tie up the resources of the Council and the emergency services. We can address this issue in different ways but the previous owner has worked with us to turn the project around quickly.
“Bringing empty homes back into use like this is a sustainable way to contribute to housing demands, contributes positively to the whole community and also generates new homes bonus income which is an additional incentive. I hope Dorothy and David have many happy years enjoying their new home.”
EPIC is an independent, charitable housing organisation providing more than 1,200 homes for affordable rent across North Staffordshire. This project is part of a three year, £15 million programme – partly funded by Homes England – to deliver more than 130 homes for the local community through their Rent2Buy and Affordable Rent programmes.
Jeff Plant, Operations Director at EPIC, added: “We are delighted to have worked with our partners to bring this property back into use after being empty for so long and are passionate about helping local people secure housing tailored to meet their needs.”