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Warwick Wins National Housing Award

An innovative scheme aimed at revitalising town centres, providing new homes and improving the environment by restoring derelict properties across the district has won its creators a national award.

The prize was presented to Warwick District Council during National Week of Action on Empty Homes, organised by The Empty Homes agency on Friday 23 April in Birmingham.

The scheme – the first of its kind in the country – is aimed at helping property owners find the cash to renovate uninhabitable buildings by underwriting loans they would otherwise be unable to attract.

A joint initiative between Warwick District Council, the Nationwide Building Society and promoted by estate agents Peter Bromwich and Loveitts, offers loans secured against the anticipated, rather than the current, value of the property.

Housing committee chairman Cllr Peter Byrd (Labour) explained:

"Raising the finance is often an insurmountable hurdle for owners if the cost of conversion or renovation exceeds the current value of the property. This innovative funding mechanism has found a way of bridging this finance gap."

Once work is completed the council relinquishes its responsibility for the loan.

"The scheme offers a number of advantages to the owners of the properties they cannot afford to maintain – such as providing them with additional income from the rental of the revitalised building and the chance to see their property returned to community."

"It’s a totally win win situation." Explained Cllr Byrd.

The council has underwritten loans on three properties in various parts of Leamington since the scheme’s launch at the end of last year. The project will be promoted district-wide at a meeting in May.

Independent housing committee spokesman Cllr Peter Jackson said:

"The council deserves to win the award for this innovative scheme, which has involved a great deal of hard work. It is the first of its kind in the country and other councils are already showing interest in adopting a similar idea themselves. I hope it goes from strength to strength."

Conservative spokesman Cllr Michael Doody said:

"The spirit of the scheme is very good. We have a number of properties in the district which must have looked superb thirty years ago. It’s good news that we should be able to give their owners a headstart in bringing them back to this standard."

Cllr Boad (Lib Dem) explained:

"This award shows that innovation can help bring back into use homes which have not been used to their full potential – particularly those over shops. It also means we can bring back some life in to the town centres. There is nothing worse than having a ghost town. The scheme is a good incentive for property owners to do something about redundant properties."

Hugh Roberts Business Finance Manager from the Nationwide Building Society said the project was already generating interest from other local authorities.

"Once the scheme is launched officially next month we want to make sure people use it."

David Plank from the Empty Homes Agency, which aims to slash the number of unused properties across the country, said:

"We chose Warwick District Council to receive this award because it had devised the most innovative empty property strategy."

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