Loans to bring vacant homes back into use

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LOANS have been provided to owners of empty properties in Sheffield to encourage them to bring more than 100 homes back into use.

Sheffield Council has provided the cash from the £1.96 million New Homes Bonus grant it received last year from the Government, and 137 landlords have received support.

But the council’s ruling Labour group has been criticised for failing to spend most of the sum - with only £279,000 spent in the 2011/12 financial year.

The council’s initiative to bring empty homes back into use was launched last October, with letters sent to owners of long-term empty properties last October.

A Sheffield Council spokesman said: “We contacted landlords across the city, working with them to offer advice and provide support to encourage them to bring empty properties back into use.”

Loans were offered on condition the authority leased homes from landlords and let them alongside council houses.

Lib Dems have queried why Labour rejected a larger scheme proposed by the opposition party to help bring as many as 6,000 homes back into use, with the New Homes Bonus cash.

Coun Penny Baker, Lib Dem housing spokeswoman, said: “If Labour had adopted our plan back in September to bring more than 6,000 empty homes back into use, many more families could be benefitting.”

Coun Harry Harpham, cabinet member for housing, said: “When we came into control last year the Lib Dems had done next to nothing and brought just 13 homes back into use in their last year.

“It’s a bit rich for them to complain about us.”