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Housing grants may help rental crisis

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Housing grants may help rental crisis

HOUSE owners have the opportunity to claim up to £20,000 in grants from Dumfries and Galloway Council to make their empty properties available for rent.

Due to a serious shortage of housing in the region, the local authority is going to extra lengths to bring unused flats and houses back onto the rental market.

Council housing chiefs have been running a scheme where private landlords can apply for grant funding to bring their properties up to scratch and make them available for letting.

In the past year, a total of £200,000 has been handed out to ten different property owners – and councillors will now consider whether or not to continue the housing grants scheme in 2023/24.

A report on the matter, which will be tabled at the council’s economy and resources committee next Tuesday, reads: “Funding will enable property owners to provide high quality properties that bring people to live in town centres and settlements.

“It will be aimed at homes that are currently empty and in need of refurbishment, or commercial properties with the appropriate permissions in place to be converted into homes.

“This could include flats above shops, which have in many circumstances been turned into storage spaces or sit unused.”

The allocation of £200,000 in approved grants has been to support investment of over £500,000 to bring properties in the region’s town centres back into use as homes.

The council’s strategic housing and regeneration team are currently working with a number of empty property owners, and the plan is for more grant funding to be made available in the new financial year.

Applications must meet certain strict criteria and measures have also been put in place to try and prevent people from cheating the system.

A 50 per cent grant rate with a maximum award of £20,000 per home is offered.

Allocations will be subject to conditions set out in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, which secure the residential status of the property and ensure it is appropriately maintained.

Private landlords and owners who intend to occupy the property would be able to apply subject to the following additional conditions:

n For five years following the payment of an empty property grant, the owner must prove to the council that the property is still being made available for private let, or being occupied by the owner or family.

n Ten per cent of the grant award will be withheld until the landlord provides documentary evidence that the property is occupied as described above.

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