Blighted terraces to be bought and turned into semis

THOUSANDS OF "unsellable" empty homes are to be bought by the Government under ambitious plans to halt inner-city blight and tackle the North-South divide.

The controversial scheme will use taxpayers' cash for the first time to take rows of "dead streets" in the North out of the hands of private landlords and make them attractive again.

The secret plans have been drawn up in response to ministers' concern at reports earlier this year that scores of Coronation Street-style terraces are being abandoned as vandals and drug dealers move in. In Salford, the problem is so severe that houses change hands in pubs for as little as pounds 500 and estate agents have even offered a "buy two, get one free" scheme.

In Newcastle upon Tyne, the council was so desperate to off-load blighted homes that it sold them at two for pounds 1, with prospective buyers agreeing to pay for repairs.

Although the South is experiencing a 1980s-style house price boom, many areas of the North are seeing price falls and whole communities locked into a spiral of decline.

Ministers have approved a radical programme drawn up by the Housing Corporation, the government agency that gives pounds 750m a year to housing associations to provide affordable homes. Under the "New Tools" scheme, Approved Development Programme grants will be used to take advantage of low house prices in the North and snap up empty homes for as little as pounds 5,000.

The terraced streets will be converted into rows of detached and semi- detached houses with gardens in the space that their neighbours used to occupy. The "two-into-one conversions", which were pioneered in Salford using council cash, knock together pairs of two-up, two-down terraced houses to make one detached home.

Families will be encouraged to move into the three-bed and four-bed houses in an attempt to change the social profile of the streets and cut crime.

Four pilot schemes have been drawn up for pre-1919 terraces in North Tyneside, Manchester, Bolton and Rochdale, using pounds 4.5m of grants on 300 properties.

The scheme has been kept secret because its backers are worried that speculators will inflate prices once precise locations of streets are publicised.

Estate agents will be hired to pick different properties and try to ensure that unscrupulous absentee landlords are not alerted what amounts to this wholesale purchase of entire streets. The project is also contentious because it uses public money to pay private landlords and homeowners to take dilapidated stock off their hands. Previously, compulsory purchase orders were used but such an approach is now deemed slow and inefficient.

In some inner cities, the privately owned terraces have proved even more derelict than council estates and ministers have decided that the State should intervene where the free market has failed.

In a leaked letter to the Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Corporation's chief executive, Anthony Mayer, admits that the scheme is "treading on new ground" but declares that doing nothing is not an option.

"Failure to adequately maintain poor quality homes past their sell-by date is resulting in abandonment and blight which in turn acts as a catalyst for further abandonment and blight," he wrote.

"The case for a focused programme of public sector intervention in private sector homes in these neighbourhoods is persuasive."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower