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Empty homes scheme opening doors to new skills

The scheme, which is backed by Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, Community Campus 87 and East Cleveland Youth Housing Trust, aims to renovate ten homes in its first year, with a further ten to follow.

The project sees landlords owning long-term empty properties in the Redcar and Cleveland borough being offered a package of refurbishment work in return for leasing the property to Coast & Country.

Nine people, who are unemployed, homeless or struggling to gain skills in the construction industry, have been offered places to train with mentors to refurbish the empty homes.

Now the first property, at Park Terrace in Brotton, has been completed, with two more underway in nearby Marske. Work includes fitting new kitchens and bathrooms, wallpapering, painting and decorating.

“This scheme operates on two important levels,” said Iain Sim, Chief Executive at Coast & Country. “One is to help people learn construction skills to help improve their chances of finding work and the other is to make more affordable housing available to Redcar and Cleveland residents.

The scheme was made possible by a £250,000 investment from the Homes and Communities Agency.

“Empty homes can have a negative effect on local communities, and this project is making a real difference,” said Neil Cawson, Investment and Regeneration Manager at the Homes and Communities Agency. “In tough economic times, this project is helping residents to gain skills and jobs as well as improving local neighbourhoods.

“Our role is all about helping councils and housing providers like Coast and Country to make things happen in their own communities, and this is a great example of that local approach in action.”

Michael McCorry, from Grangetown, joined the scheme as a trainee after being made redundant from a factory job.

The 22-year-old, who has completed college painting and decorating courses and is studying for further NVQs, said: “The extra training and skills I’m picking up are helping to build my confidence.

“If it wasn’t for this project, I would still be unemployed and sitting in front of the TV. I hope this is the start to a career in painting and decorating.”

Carl Ditchburn, Co-ordinator at Community Campus 87, said: “This scheme helps build people’s confidence and equips them with skills to enhance their employability. All nine trainees have demonstrated commitment and focus and would be an asset to any construction business.”

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal, Councillor Lynne Pallister, added: “This scheme helps tackle those properties that can have a negative impact on the local community, helps increase the supply of affordable housing in East Cleveland and also provides valuable work experience for local unemployed people.”

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