Empty homes that were once a blight on the streets of Gresham in Middlesbrough are being given a new lease of life thanks to a Middlesbrough CLT, with support from a local housing association.

Middlesbrough Community Land Trust (MCLT), a group of volunteers from Middlesbrough, was formed to look at ways to tackle the problem of long standing empty homes in the area.

Having been awarded funding from the Home and Communities Agency’sEmpty Homes programme, MCLT approached the Council with hopes of taking empty properties back into public use.

In 2012, full ownership of the first three houses was transferred to the Trust. Volunteers have since been working hard, with the help of local traders and contractors, as well as putting in countless hours of their own elbow grease.

Mark Keenan, director and finance officer of Middlesbrough Community Land Trust, explained: “The initiative has carried out fantastic work so far, turning lifeless empty properties into desirable, affordable family homes for Middlesbrough. We’re very proud of our success. All work is guaranteed and completed to a very high standard.”

After further success for MCLT in round two of the Empty Homes funding project, Middlesbrough Council has now transferred four more properties over to the Trust on a lease basis. The Trust is already on site at two of the properties and hoping to start work on the next two this year.

MCLT won a national award in 2013 for their partnership working. As well as working closely with the Local Authority and local tradespeople, they have been using the skills of trainees from Middlesbrough College and Community Campus ’87 in Stockton, giving local young people the chance to build invaluable work experience.

North Star Housing Group, which includes Stockton-based Endeavour Housing Association, has been working closely with MCLT from the beginning, helping with the original submission for funding from the HCA and with the business planning. Endeavour now managed and maintains the properties on behalf of the Trust.

Sally Thomas, head of community investment at North Star Housing Group, explained what prompted the Group to get involved.

She said: “It’s about helping communities to help themselves, by championing community-led housing initiatives, not seeing them as competition.

“The Trust chose to focus its efforts on the area of Gresham as there is a strong sense of community there, as well as empty homes to bring back into use. But, since the introduction of welfare reform, that community, like many others, has become much more fragile.

“This project may start with bricks and mortar, but it means so much more than that to the local people and neighbourhoods of Gresham.”

And there are plans to bring yet more properties back to the community, with even a potential new build scheme on the horizon.