Landmark scheme helps first-time buyers

FIRST-time buyers in Ipswich are to be offered an interest-free loan of up to £20,000 if they restore a home that has been empty for more than a year.The revolutionary scheme from the borough council is aimed at reducing the number of empty homes in the borough and helping young people to get their first foot on the housing ladder.

FIRST-time buyers in Ipswich are to be offered an interest-free loan of up to £20,000 if they restore a home that has been empty for more than a year.

The revolutionary scheme from the borough council is aimed at reducing the number of empty homes in the borough and helping young people to get their first foot on the housing ladder.

There are more than 450 homes across Ipswich which have been empty for more than a year - and most need a substantial amount of repairs before they are fit for occupation.

That is a significant obstacle for many youngsters seeking their first home.


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Now the borough will give them a grant to cover 80 per cent of the cost of restoration up to a maximum of £20,000.

The grant has to be repaid when the house is sold and it is only available to first-time buyers so people can only get it once.

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To be eligible, people have to have a mortgage of at least 90 pc and have less than £6,000 in savings - and be buying a house that has been empty for more than 12 months.

Ipswich council private sector housing manager Paul Brookes hoped the new scheme, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, would make a dent in the number of empty homes across Ipswich.

He said: “In January there were 500 homes that had been empty for more than six months across the town. That number hasn't fallen - now they have been empty for a year.

“The fact is that once a house has been left empty for a period of time, it will inevitably need work carried out to make it inhabitable again.

“We are hoping this scheme will encourage more people to get involved in that restoration work.”

Council leader Liz Harsant said the money for the new scheme would come from general council funds - but it should generate more money as more households would be paying council tax and there would be fewer people looking for council support.

She said: “Everyone knows of empty properties in their area and the problem has always been finding people to take them on.

“Hopefully this bring more empty homes back into use.”

The chairman of the government's empty homes agency, Jonathan Ellis, is coming to Ipswich tomorrow to find out more about the project and give it his stamp of approval.

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