- Almost 160 homes in Horden and Blackhall villages have been boarded up
- Millions of pounds of investment withdrawn by housing association
- Owners say two-bed houses cannot be let due to so-called ‘bedroom tax’
Lydia Willgress for MailOnline
Situated near the beautiful Durham coastline among rolling green fields, they sound like a beautiful place to live.
Yet homes in the once thriving villages of Horden and Blackhall stand empty and – even with a price tag of just £1 – have no buyer.
Almost 160 terraced homes that snake through the villages are boarded up or entombed behind steel shutters. In fact, they outnumber the properties that still have ordinary doors and windows.
Some of the empty properties are owned by private landlords but most are owned by a housing association.
Accent housing association, which owns most of the houses, says it pulled millions of pounds of investment because there is no demand for two-bed homes following the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’
Horden Beach, which is particularly good for fishing, is just down the road from many of the houses
The association, Accent, says it has withdrawn millions of pounds of regeneration cash from the villages – believing the homes cannot be let. It blames the so-called bedroom tax.
Also known as the Spare Room Subsidy, the ‘tax’ is a change to housing benefit which means claimants receive less if they live in a housing association or council property with a spare bedroom.
Accent offered to sell 130 homes to Durham County Council for just £1 each, but the council refused. However, residents blame the housing association for letting the area slide and say they are now plagued by rats.
Pat Barnett of the Horden Colliery Residents’ Association said: ‘The quality of the houses has gone down – the Accent owned houses. They weren’t doing their repairs and people just moved out.’
The association says it offered 130 of the homes to Durham Council at just £1 each, but the council refused because people cannot afford to live in homes with a spare bedroom
Residents have said that the villages used to be nice places to live, but are now infested with rats
The street has been left with red graffiti and for sale signs as its only residents, and has been compared to Beirut in Lebanon
These boarded-up houses, many of which are on Twelfth Street, Horden, have also been compared to a ‘disease’
She said that no one wanted to live next to houses that were boarded up adding: ‘It’s just like a disease that’s spread down the streets.’
Things are likely to get even worse in the former mining villages with a further 100 households due to move out.
Isabel Roberts, who has lived in the area for 38 years, told Channel 4 News: ‘These were lovely houses. Now it’s like Beirut. It’s absolutely disgraceful.’
Some of the houses, on Twelfth Street, are just two miles away from the beautiful north-east coastline
Things are likely to get even worse in the former mining villages with a further 100 households due to move out
The £1 houses even have small courtyard gardens, which back on to narrow roads and alleyways
The Accent group says the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ has accelerated the town’s decline.
Gordon Perry of Accent said: ‘It is a factor, it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.
‘We had 67 per cent of our two-bed properties with single people in. But the bedroom tax means that’s no longer affordable.’
Durham council says that even if the homes are bought for just £1, they would be too expensive to repair. They may now go on the open market.
TOP THINGS TO DO AROUND HORDEN
- Horden Beach – A sand and shingle beach just two miles away from the village centre, particularly good for fishing and walking.
- Welfare Park – A large green area dubbed the ‘most popular’ attraction by residents. It includes a heritage centre, bowling green, bandstand and popular cafe, as well as sports fields for rugby, football and cricket.
- Horden Hall – This manor house, thought to be built in the early 17th century for Sir John Conyers, is a Grade II listed building.
- Memorial Pit Wheel – Horden Colliery was one of the biggest mines in the country and is now marked by a memorial pit wheel.
- Sunderland – Sunderland is 12 miles north of Horden and boasts shops, restaurants, beaches and Herrington Country Park.
- Entertainment – Horden boasts quite a nightlife and has several clubs, which bring people in from nearby villages.
Durham council says that even if the homes are bought for just £1, they would be too expensive to repair and they may now go on the open market
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