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Councils rewarded for encouraging house building

Councils have been awarded over £2 billion for helping to deliver 550,000 new homes.The New Homes Bonus rewards councils for encouraging the construction of new houses by match funding the additional council tax revenue raised. The total number of 550,000 also includes over 160,000 affordable homes, which receive extra funding. Some 93,000 empty properties have been brought back into use under the scheme.Councils are free to spend the money as they wish to benefit their local communities, by supporting frontline services, freezing council tax or providing new facilities. Several councils have used the finance to build new facilities, with Test Valley Borough Council providing a £140,000 urban sports centre in Andover. Housing minister Kris Hopkins said the scheme has led to the highest level of construction in seven years. He claimed that top-down strategies and eco-towns had failed hardworking families and had done little to help those who aspire to own their own home.Communities minister Stephen Williams commented: "The government is doing everything possible to tackle the problem of empty homes and urban blight, and the New Homes Bonus is a shot in the arm for councils tackling the problem of abandoned homes and urban blight locally." He said the initiative is being taken further to give councils the incentive to bring people back into areas that have been abandoned.The policy is one of a number of measures undertaken by the government in an attempt to boost construction in order to meet the demand for new homes. The Get Britain Building investment fund has also been set up to address weaknesses in the housing market, supporting the development of construction projects that have stalled.Earlier this week, Labour leader Ed Miliband pledged to double the rate of house building to 200,000 a year by 2020. He attacked councils that prevent neighbouring authorities from building and developers who profit from land speculation rather than development, claiming that a Labour government would work to unblock the planning process. 

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