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by administrator @, Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 10:11

Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell has invited community and voluntary organisations to apply for a share of £100m that will help revitalise communities and bring the empty homes blighting their areas back into use.

Mr Stunell said that the Government cash would help tackle this national scandal, creating more affordable housing and giving a new lease of life to homes and communities.

Around 720,000 homes are sitting empty across the country - with 280,000 unused and under-maintained for six months or more.

Assisted by the New Homes Bonus, which rewards councils for getting empty homes back into use, more than 21,000 long-term empty homes have been brought back into use in the last year, and the community grants programme is the next step in the Government's strategy for tackling the problem.

The minister appointed fund manager Tribal - who have a wealth of experience in dealing with voluntary and community groups - to manage distribution of funding to successful applicants. Tribal will also assess applications and report back to the Department according to the criteria set out in the guidance released.

Successful applications will bring empty homes back into use as affordable housing; deliver value for money; have support from their local authority; and expect to be complete by 31 March 2015.

Mr Stunell encouraged innovative and ambitious applications, expressing his hope that successful projects would not only bring much needed empty homes back into use but also provide extra opportunities for local jobs and training.

He said: "The blight of empty, abandoned homes is putting strain on communities right across the country - if every empty home were refurbished and made fit for living, we could nearly halve the housing waiting list. Thousands of homes have already come back into use in the last year - but there's plenty more to do.

"The Government is committed to bringing this national scandal to an end. That's why the programme I've launched today will give communities a chance to breathe new life into their neighbourhoods. This is an opportunity to create high quality new homes to ease the local waiting list, boost local skills and revive local pride."

This funding is part of the Government's Affordable Homes Programme to build up to 170,000 new affordable homes over the next four years. It is expected that up to £30million of the total £100 million could be given over to community groups.

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