PlaceFirst begins Woodnook refurbishment

Paul Unger

Work has started on site to bring 200 empty homes in Accrington, Lancashire back into use.

The work is the first phase of a project being carried out by a joint venture between Manchester-based developer PlaceFirst and housing association Twin Valley Homes, working with Hyndburn Council.

An initial five streets in the district of Woodnook, close to the centre of Accrington, will be remodelled and refurbished. Work to strip out the properties began this week.

Lancashire has the highest proportion of vacant deserted properties in the country. The PlaceFirst project will see 200 of these traditional two-up, two-down terraced houses converted into a range of two-, three- and four-bedroom properties to meet the needs of growing and established families.

The first phase of the development will see 71 houses brought back into use by summer 2014, with a further 129 properties set to follow.

The homes will be let via an institutional private rental model.

PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes said they will offer customers a fair value rental package, with homes priced to compete with existing private rented property in the area.

The JV will offer customers the option to rent for the long-term, with rental prices increase through an index-linked annual review.

PlaceFirst and Twin Valley Homes will invest more than £6.5m in the first phase of the project. For the second phase, Hyndburn Council has secured £3.76m of Empty Homes Cluster Funding from the Homes & Communities Agency.

Based in Didsbury, PlaceFirst was founded in 2009 by managing director David Smith-Milne after he acquired the regeneration business from Tribal Group.

Smith-Milne said: "Our strategy is to grow the business rapidly in the private rented sector. The nation's housing crisis has led to far too many families living in poor quality privately rented properties."

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