Stoke-on-Trent is hoping to once again regenerate its property market with a programme to sell off derelict houses for £1 a pop.
First-time buyers who live, work or have family ties to Stoke are being offered the chance to get onto the property ladder for a quid, with 25 houses in the Portland Street area of Hanley up for grabs.
It is the second time Stoke City Council has launched a scheme to sell off dilapidated properties, having first introduced the initiative in 2013, when 33 council houses in Cobridge were sold for £1, with each buyer then given a £30,000 loan to help renovate the property.
Rebecca Dennis and Chris Benn were one couple to take advantage of the scheme, buying the house for the cost of a bottle of water. After spending four months restoring the property, they managed to increase its value by around £60,000.
While the council previously bought derelict council homes to sell on, the latest scheme involves buying empty privately-owned properties from absentee landlords. It then sells these at rock-bottom prices with a loan of around £60,000 for the buyers to renovate the property, which has to be repaid over 15 years, with interest, before they then become the outright owner.
In order to qualify for the scheme, buyers must have been in continuous work for at least a year and earn a maximum income of up to £27,000 if single, £33,000 if single with children, and up to £54,000 for a couple, or £60,000 for a couple with dependants.
Randy Conteh, Stoke's council’s cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “The project... not only enables hardworking people on modest salaries to buy homes they would not otherwise be able to afford, it helps to regenerate rundown parts of the city – adding to a sense of community for residents and helping to tackle social issues."
While the council has so far acquired 12 empty homes as part of the project, it aims to get up to a maximum of 25.
Average property prices in Stoke-on-Trent are just shy of £130,000, Rightmove data shows, making it an affordable place for first-time buyers. The UK average is £211,085.
Stoke isn't the only city to launch a programme in the hopes of rejuvenating its property market, with Liverpool launching a similar scheme in 2015.
As many as 2,750 Liverpudlians applied to buy around 120 empty and unloved Victorian homes for next to nothing, in deprived areas of the city.
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In the first tranche, 20 homes were sold around Granby Four Streets and Arnside Road. That same year, Granby Four Streets won the Turner Prize because the cluster of terraced houses, based in a corner of Toxteth and earmarked for demolition, were revamped, transforming the community without resorting to "corporate gentrification".
It was specifically recognised as a work of art rather than architecture, after judges argued it did more to "change the way people live" than other exhibitions.