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Mon, Jul 15, 2024

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In a bold move to address the ongoing housing crisis, a local council in Cornwall has taken a remarkable step by agreeing to sell 11 Grade II listed flats, valued at £640,000, for a mere £1. The decision aims to ensure that affordable housing remains accessible to residents in the heart of Looe, a picturesque Cornish town.

Cornwall Council's cabinet has given its seal of approval to transfer ownership of the 11 Coastguard Flats to the Three Seas Community Land Trust. In return, the trust has committed to an extensive £1 million refurbishment project funded through grants. This extraordinary decision not only averts substantial maintenance expenses but also safeguards these homes as affordable housing for the long term.

Councillor David Harris, Cornwall Council's deputy leader, emphasized that selling these flats on the open market would likely have led to the loss of affordable housing in Looe. The area already grapples with housing shortages due to second home ownership and holiday lets. Harris believes that a community-led redevelopment scheme is the key to preserving these flats for affordable housing.

This initiative comes after Cornwall Housing deemed the refurbishment of the North Road building financially unviable in 2021, declaring it surplus to the council's needs. However, thanks to the determination of Looe councillors Edwina Hannaford and Armand Toms, Three Seas Community Land Trust stepped in with an ambitious proposal to renovate the properties at a cost exceeding £1 million, entirely funded through grants.

During the cabinet meeting, it was evident that such a project would be unattainable without the support of grant funding, generously provided by Homes England. Councillor Hannaford stressed the critical importance of providing secure and affordable housing in Looe, highlighting that the scarcity of such housing is a pressing issue not only in Looe but throughout Cornwall.

This commendable endeavor bears some resemblance to a scheme previously undertaken by Stoke-on-Trent Council in 2015. However, participants in that scheme were required to commit to residing in the new properties for a minimum of five years, maintain employment, and demonstrate a household income between £18,000 and £25,000. Councillor Randy Conteh, cabinet member for housing, expressed that while the location for the new scheme in Cornwall has yet to be decided, its core mission remains consistent—to rejuvenate and empower communities.

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