Greengates Builders Merchants

Can the street where every house costs £1 solve our national housing shortage?

Could a Victorian terrace in Liverpool being offered to DIY enthusiasts provide the key to solving our national housing shortage? And how much would it take to turn them into dream homes?

The street is cobbled, which is nice for heritage buffs, and there's not much traffic. On the downside, the bright red paint on the house fronts won't be to all tastes and nor will the metal grilles over many of the windows and doors. But what you lose on desirability, you gain on price. You can buy one of these two up, two-downs for a pound.

Actually you personally can't unless you live in the Kensington, Granby or Picton areas of Liverpool. The scheme unveiled by the city's council on Wednesday is designed for local residents not for buy-to-let speculators and if you purchase one of the properties you have to live in it for at least five years without sub-letting it.

"This is about working with the existing community in those areas and using the dreams, ambitions and drive that they have to turn round their communities," says councillor Ann O'Byrne, the Liverpool council's cabinet member for housing.

"Their family members are looking to come back into the community but because of the cost of mortgages and the condition of properties it has been very difficult for them. This is going to work if we support and engage with the existing residents and we can make a massive difference to this area."

There are a million empty homes in Britain, of which 350,000 have been vacant long-term, and there are two million families needing homes.

In former industrial towns streets of terraced housing stand boarded up as families head for new-build accommodation outside town centres. For those who won't or can't leave, conditions in the neighbourhoods spiral downwards.

Abandoned buildings bring down living standards and raise crime rates by attracting arsonists, squatters and looters, devaluing and damaging nearby properties.

In the New Labour era deputy prime minister John Prescott had a plan. Under his Pathfinder scheme pre-First World War terraces were to be demolished and new brown-field housing built in their place. But it didn't work out like that. The taxpayer spent billions of pounds emptying and demolishing homes but very few new ones had been built by the time the coalition scrapped the scheme.

This has left councils struggling with the twin problems of urban blight and homelessness - and desperate times call for desperate measures. In the 99p stores which are thriving it's amazing to see what you can buy for a pound. Now it is even more astonishing, but somehow strangely fitting, to find you can buy a whole house.

“This scheme worked in Stoke a few years ago so maybe all Councils should look at doing the same” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.



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