Call to give district's empty properties new life

Property owners across the Folkestone & Hythe district are being urged to take advantage of the help on offer to bring long-term empty homes back into use.

Scaffolding on flats

The renewed call comes during National Empty Homes Week (15-21 February 2021) which aims to highlight Kent's No Use Empty (NUE) scheme run by Kent County Council with district councils.

Folkestone & Hythe was one of the first districts in the county to sign up its support for NUE and since 2009, 205 homes have been provided in former empty and sometimes derelict properties.

NUE provides short-term secured loans to fund renovation projects and when the loans are repaid, the money is recycled into a new project. In addition to supporting the scheme with advice and guidance around local development, Folkestone & Hythe was the first district to put funding into the scheme to provide "top-up" loans. These loans of up to £25,000 per unit enable some of the larger empty properties in the district to be included.

Councillor David Godfrey, F&HDC Cabinet member for Housing, Transportation and Special Projects said: "The aim of this initiative is both to bring properties back into use but also to eradicate the problems sometimes associated with vacant buildings which can cause problems for local communities.

"I am delighted that we have not only supported the No Use Empty scheme but also been able to earmark additional funding for top up loans for larger projects within the district."

Empty Homes Week logoOne of those who has used the scheme is Zach Maasbach of the Roma Capital Group, whose company has converted derelict office space in Folkestone's Bouverie Square into 10 new apartments and a further four in a former guest house in Cheriton Road. All were let within days of completion and the funding repaid.

Zach explained: "The Cheriton Road property was previously operated as a guest house. However, it had been shut and vacated for some time with numerous break-ins and a severe damp issue in the basement. Through the use of KCC's No Use Empty scheme, we were able to convert this property into four new residential apartments. As an SME developer, this funding was crucial to the viability of this project, and has resulted in this dilapidated building being brought back to life."

Councillor Mike Whiting, Kent County Council Cabinet member for Economic Development said: "Initiatives such as No Use Empty are becoming increasingly important in these challenging times. I am pleased that additional funding has been made available by the district. No Use Empty remains open for business and ready to administer new loan applications, all of which help Kent's economy recover as well as delivering the homes required".

Further information about the Kent scheme can be found here

Date published: 16 February 2021

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