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'Homes for £1': Liverpool launches scheme to lure tenants into derelict houses

'Homes for £1': Liverpool launches scheme to lure tenants into derelict houses
Liverpool’s city council has started selling abandoned houses for just £1, with the first person receiving the keys. However, the tempting "Homes for £1" scheme is still fraught with high spending and hard work.

Local self-employed taxi driver, Jayalal Madde, was the first of 10 successful applicants for the £1 houses when Liverpool’s Labor Mayor, Joe Anderson, handed over the keys to Madde to a mid-terrace four-bedroom, two-bathroom house.

Under the pilot scheme, the council is selling off 20 of its rundown properties for a nominal sum in a bid to breathe a new life into deserted properties in Liverpool. The scheme comes as unemployment in the city is among the highest in Britain, where living standards have fallen considerably in the last five years since the 2008 crisis.

When the city council launched the initiative in April, strict criteria were set out. All applicants were required to live or work in Liverpool, be a first-time buyer and to be employed.

The Maddes, a family of four, beat off more than 1,000 other applicants, who applied for the council’s scheme.

While the Maddes indeed paid only £1 for the house, they still cannot move in their new home. 

Reuters / Phil Noble

Under the scheme, Madde is required to spend many thousands of pounds on repairs to bring the uninhabitable house up to the UK’s Decent Homes Standard. It means the house must be in a reasonable state of repair, have reasonably modern facilities and services, and have thermal comfort, i.e. be warm and weatherproof. 

The council estimates that the scale of the works required in each such house “is likely to cost in excess of £35,000.”

“There is an entire floor that needs to be redone and we have to knock down some walls but it is not in a very bad condition. The roof is OK and there are no structural problems so I am happy,” Madde said.

The work should be completed within 12 months, according to the conditions of the scheme.

Reuters / Phil Noble

Sri Lankan-born Madde says it will cost him around £40,000 (US $ 60,000) and up to six months to renovate his new home, the Liverpool Echo reports. He says he has saved some of the money through his local credit union, working 60 hour weeks in his cab.

According to the scheme’s conditions, applicants are also required to agree to live in the house for at least five years, be local first time buyers with the necessary funds to carry out the work and not sub-let it within the set period.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson has warned applicants it would be a challenge to make the homes habitable.

“We are only looking for people who have a genuine commitment to bringing these properties back to life and turning them into a home they are proud to live in. We're confident that Mr. Madde is one such individual,” he said. “Those who are successful in obtaining a house will have to put in a lot of hard work, as well as their own finances. But we’ll be there to support them.”

If the scheme proves to be successful, the council will sell off up to 1,000 empty properties to bring them back into use.

Andersen, elected as the city’s mayor in 2012 on a program of passing on austerity cuts from the UK national government in London, has a controversial record, forcing through millions of pounds of cuts in local services. During his 2012 election campaign he was strongly criticized for his austerity policies by leftist Trade Union and Socialist candidate Tony Mulhearn, who in the 1980s was one of the leaders of the left-wing Liverpool Labor council that in five years built 5,000 semi-detached houses for rent and fought the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher for more resources.