'It's a dream come true': Lucky buyer receives key to £1 house as scheme in Liverpool puts empty properties back into use across the city

Self-employed taxi driver first applicant to be allocated home as more than 1,000 people apply for one of 20 properties

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The Independent Online

A spacious four bedroom Victorian terrace, large reception, two bathrooms, many period features within walking distance of the city, park and all other amenities. In need of some renovation.

It is the kind of property description that would give estate agents in many parts of the country palpitations in anticipation of six and seven figure offers.

Yet taxi driver Jayalal Madde took his first step onto the property ladder today when he bought a house answering the above description in Cairns Street, Liverpool, for the nominal price of a quid.

“It is totally a dream come true. I wanted to become a home owner in this country but it was very, very difficult to get a mortgage from the bank,” explained Mr Madde as he took possession of the keys from Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson in return for a £1 coin.

It means for the first time since they moved to Britain from Sri Lanka eight years ago, Mr Madde’s daughters Nihinsa, 12 and Sinali, 10, will have their own rooms.

The house is one of 20 owned by Liverpool City Council which is to be offered for sale for £1 in a bid to help regenerate local communities.

The Maddes beat more than 1,000 other applicants to have their bid accepted on the property which needs an estimated £30,000 of repairs to make it habitable.

Mr Madde, 48, had saved enough with a local credit union working 60 hour weeks in his cab to secure a loan to pay for the work. They now expect to move out of their ground floor flat and into the red brick terrace in six months’ time.

“Today I saw the inside for the first time. There is an entire floor that needs to be redone and we have to knock down some walls but it is not in very bad condition. The roof is OK and there are no structural problems so I am happy,” he said.

Successful applicants had to agree to live in the house for at least five years and be genuine local first time buyers with sufficient funds to carry out the work.

Cairns Street is part of the once notorious Granby Triangle which was scene of the 1981 Toxteth riots and whose shuttered and empty properties then became a focus of drug dealing. Liverpool City Council bought up many of the remaining homes, rehousing the occupants.

Since then terraces have been bought back by owner occupiers  - many of them from the city’s Asian communities – their wrought ironwork repainted and life breathed slowly back into a once dying neighbourhood which even won a Britain in Bloom award. 

Residents have formed a community land trust and bought their homes through a housing co-operative. Yet still only 20 per cent of the homes, originally built for the city’s middle classes, are occupied.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson, who is facing the opposition of Communities Secretary Eric Pickles over his council’s decision to demolish 440 homes in the nearby Welsh Streets area of the city – though not the former home of Beatle Ringo Starr – said it would be a challenge to make the homes habitable.

He said: “We are only looking for people who have a genuine commitment to bringing these properties back to life and turning them into a home they are proud to live in. We're confident that Mr Madde is one such individual,” he said.

In Stoke-on-Trent more than 600 people applied when the local council offered 35 derelict homes for £1 under a similar scheme earlier this year.