Residents of a former colliery community plan to take over the running of dozens of boarded up homes themselves.
A total of 160 homes out of 361 properties managed by Accent housing association stand empty in East Durham – 130 of them in Horden, near Peterlee.
They have become a magnet for antisocial behaviour, fly-tipping and rat infestations.
Horden residents decided to act after Accent announced it was seeking a “programme of disposal”, with a Government minister suggesting last week they could be flogged off for as little as £1 each.
Accent has blamed the controversial bedroom tax for contributing to the low demand for the homes, but residents argue it is the failure to invest in the properties which has made them undesirable.
At a packed meeting convened by the Horden Colliery Residents’ Association (HCRA) on February 18 backed the formation of a community association with the view to acquiring and renovating the properties.
HCRA spokesman John Barnett said:
“Over the many years Accent have invested little or nothing on the properties.
“Although Accent claims the bedroom tax is to blame, we believe it is the lack of investment and the state they have allowed the streets to degrade into that has put people off. The appearance of all the boarded up houses is devastating.”
Residents have approached community housing expert Jo Gooding to help them examine the options.
Accent is hoping many of the homes will be purchased by would-be homeowners under a homesteading initiative, subject to approval by the Homes and Communities Association.
Claire Stone, Accent’s director of communities and assets, said:
“We have worked really hard to find the best possible solution for these homes and have had a dedicated project team in place with Durham County Council and the Homes and Communities Agency to explore all the options.
“We had hoped that other social landlords with stock in the area would take them on, but unfortunately this has not proved possible.