Council testing Homes Under the Hammer approach to improving borough’s housing

Great Yarmouth Borough Council is piloting a scheme of purchasing HMOs and guest houses. Picture: Ch

Great Yarmouth Borough Council is piloting a scheme of purchasing HMOs and guest houses. Picture: Chris Gorman - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk council is hoping a Homes Under the Hammer-style approach will help it improve the living conditions of its borough.

Michael JealPicture: James Bass

Michael JealPicture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Great Yarmouth Borough Council is venturing into the property market in a bid to put the brakes on declining house quality in the area.

It has agreed to pilot a scheme whereby it purchases run down homes of multiple occupation and guest houses and brings them back up to standard, before either selling them on, renting them out or adding them to their portfolio.

To test the waters, it has agreed to pledge £2m towards the purchase and repair of two contrasting properties in the borough - one in a prime location close to the seafront.

Anthony Moore, housing growth manager at the council, said the two properties had been selected to give the council the best idea of what approach to take should it be taken beyond this stage.

Sheila Oxtoby

Sheila Oxtoby - Credit: Archant

While the approach was largely praised by members of the council’s policy and resources committee, Labour councillor Michael Jeal raised concerns that it may act as a disincentive for landlords to properly maintain their properties.

He said: “There are a lot of properties in my ward already that have been derelict for years.

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“My worry is that landlords will intentionally allow their properties to slip in quality knowing they can just sell them to us.”

However, Sheila Oxtoby, chief executive of the council, assured the committee that it would not be paying over the odds for any properties and should landlords do this it, all it would achieve is damaging the price the receive for their property.

Graham Plant, Conservative leader of the council, said: “This idea is all about bringing the area up and think this could be a real turning point for us.

“We currently have too many places with poor living conditions and absent landlords and we need to limit this. I think this is a good way of doing that.”

Mr Moore added that should the pilot prove a success, were the council to choose to use any of the renovated properties in the rental market, it would need to create a new private company to do this.