It is also approaching the £100million mark for financial backing for investment in the scheme since being established in 2005.
As the longest-running empty property initiative in the country, NUE retains the aim of reducing the number of empty dwellings that have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for over six months.
Delivered by Kent County Council, in partnership with all 12 district councils, NUE provides a model which can be replicated offering financial assistance alongside advice and guidance. The Kent approach has also been adopted by Medway Council and Southend on Sea City Council who both access the services of the NUE team to provide back-office support for their respective loan schemes.
Its co-ordinated approach has returned 7,676 empty homes back into use across Kent through a range of interventions including short-term secured loans to provide good quality housing.
The short-term secured loans have reached almost £55.2million which has leveraged an additional £41.7million from the public/private sectors giving a total investment of £96.9m to date.
The Loan Fund operates on a recyclable basis; as soon as loans are repaid the fund is replenished and can effectively be “loaned” again.
Derek Murphy, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “In these challenging times, initiatives such as No Use Empty are becoming increasingly important.
“I have visited several projects with the NUE team and have been amazed by the diversity of projects being tackled.
“National Empty Homes Week allows us to promote all the good work across the county. It has been another busy year and we expect to exceed £100million investment into bringing empty homes back into use across Kent this year.
“The availability of short-term secured loans to developers keen to help solve the housing shortage in this way is making a huge difference.”
Steve Grimshaw, KCC Strategic Programme Manager, said: “There is real enthusiasm from those local developers who are accessing the scheme to borrow short-term finance to bring those derelict sites into use for brand new homes.
“We are supporting 64 schemes across the county, which is four more than we supported in the previous financial year and have more schemes to come.”
Brief examples of the projects across the county include:
Full refurbishment of flats and of the ground floor shop in one of the primary access roads into the city.
NUE has provided a loan to help return four period terraced townhouses back into use. In October 2022 the property won an award from the Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society for “Refurbishment and conversion to apartments”.
A property which was in poor condition and empty for 11 months is currently undergoing refurbishment, including a new roof.
Another property is being separated into two separate four-storey homes, having been empty for more than two years. On completion it will contribute to the regeneration of Dover town centre.
FOLKESTONE & HYTHE
Refurbishment of three flats including new kitchens, bathrooms, carpets and damp proofing. The works also required repairs to the roof, external woodwork, balcony, decorations, repairs to paved areas, addition of bike racks, general clearance and the reinstatement of garden areas.
A Victorian property in a prominent position on Margate seafront, which had fallen into disrepair having been vacant for more than 10 years, is being reconfigured into six residential apartments.
A two-storey corner building dating from about 1860, which consisted of a ground floor lock-up commercial unit with offices on the ground and first floors and under croft car parking, has planning permission for conversion of the ground and first floor offices to provide five self-contained flats.
NUE is currently in discussion regarding a two-storey former office premises suitable for conversion to provide six units in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) under permitted development rights. The property, which is just outside the town centre and within walking distance of Maidstone West Railway Station, is considered ripe for redevelopment.
A traditional terrace home with a garden and garage required a full refurbishment after being empty for 18 months. The property is now occupied, providing a much-needed family home and NUE is receiving monthly repayments from the rental income to reduce the loan provided which ensured the project was turned around in the shortest possible time.
A 1930's style three-bedroom semi-detached bungalow, conveniently located close to Dartford town centre, was empty for 11 months and required full refurbishment.
Quercus Housing, Sevenoaks District Council’s affordable housing company, acquired the freehold of 11-13 High Street, Swanley for £3.6million in May last year..
The former offices and shops had laid as an empty property for many years, but by working with a developer to redevelop the site, it now comprises 12 two-bed flats and three one-bed flats.
The new homes were built to a high specification with open plan kitchens, dining rooms, lounges, balconies, storage and video entry. The development benefits from solar panels, electric vehicle charging points and secure cycle storage for 15 bikes.
All the homes have been let to local residents who had been previously placed in temporary accommodation or on the housing register.
In honour of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the residential building was named Elizabeth House.
For further information, visit the NUE website: https://www.no-use-empty.org.uk/