Owners of the first refurbished house in the newest phase of Liverpool City Council’s innovative Homes for £1 scheme, gave a special tour to the city’s Mayor today.
Mr & Mrs Sam and Rachael Kamau welcomed Mayor Joe Anderson to their revamped four-bedroom end terrace exactly a year to the day after taking the keys to the then dilapidated property.
Last November the couple took ownership of the house in Webster Road, despite it having a leaking roof, a bathroom with no floor and plaster peeling off every wall.
“It was the worst house I’d ever seen” said mother of two, Mrs Kamau, whose dramatic renovation will be screened in a documentary for Channel 4 in the New Year.
“Everything that you can think of needed doing bar replacing the bricks on the outside.There was a waterfall coming down the staircase because the roof had no lining and you could see the kitchen through the bathroom!
“I know most people would have just walked away but what we saw, beyond the poor condition, was the space. When we heard about the £1 home scheme, we had two growing girls who’d always had to share a bedroom and whatever needed to be done paled into insignificance to the space.”
Twelve months later and the family now live in a home Mayor Anderson, who brought flowers to celebrate their anniversary (and Katy Perry tickets at the Echo Arena for the couple’s daughters), described as “good as any you would buy brand new. Better even. I live in a similar property and I know my wife will be telling me how much our house needs doing after she’s seen this one!”
Rachael and Sam, who are both qualified nurses, came from Kenya to live in Liverpool 16 years ago but have never been able to get on the property ladder until they qualified for the £1 home scheme.
Rachael added: “We’ve been renting for a long, long time and we didn’t have a clue about how to restore a house. The journey has been a real roller coaster. It’s been very tiring because we both work and we’ve been coming every single day since we got the keys.
“Even by March we could only walk in the middle of the hallway because there were no floorboards but when that was done and the new windows went in we felt like we’d turned the corner. Then it started to feel like a house. Not yet a home, but a house and that was a big moment.
“By June we’d begun to look at what furnishings and colour schemes but because we’d never done this before we couldn’t make our mind up! But by then we were spending more time here then at our rented home. That’s when we stopped telling the girls we’re going to 104 but we’re going home. We moved psychologically before we moved physically.
“The first night was strange. It had been hard saying goodbye to our old neighbours and there were boxes everywhere but moving in felt such a huge achievement, we felt like we’d won the lottery. Then the next morning. All I can say is waking up in your own home is indescribable!
“There’s still bits we need to do and we’re still learning about what works and doesn’t but it’s all been worth it and by far the best pound we’ve ever spent. Sam’s birthday is in December. That’s the first birthday we get to celebrate here and it will be a very special occasion.”
Liverpool City Council launched the pilot for Homes for a Pound in 2015 in the Granby Four Streets area and the second phase in the Picton area in 2016. More than 2,500 people have applied to be on the scheme, which requires families to not sell their house for five years after buying it. 100 families have now been handed properties and a further 350 are being lined up for a new home in further phases.
Mayor Anderson said: “What Rachel and Sam have done is truly inspirational. They’ve proved that with a bit of love and determination a once neglected house can be transformed into a dream home. We set up the Homes for a Pound scheme for families exactly like the Kamau’s. And the beauty of what they’ve achieved in that as well as creating as beautiful new home they’re helping to create a new community too, which is a real win-win for everyone.
“I’m delighted we’ve got lots more properties lined up for other families and we won’t be stopping there. Next month we’ll be launching a new housing company because we’ve got thousands of properties which can be brought back to life and we’re doing that because the demand is there. People want to get on the housing ladder and Liverpool is still regenerating, still growing and very much an attractive place to work and live.”
Homes for a Pound is one of a range of measures Liverpool City Council is using to bring a total of 6,000 empty houses back into use. 1,500 properties have already been brought back into use since 2014, half of which have been delivered by the award-winning Liverpool Housing Partnership.
That partnership sees the council work with developers Redrow and social housing company Liverpool Mutual Homes in a five year, £205m scheme.
Councillor Frank Hont, Cabinet member for Housing, added: “Liverpool is fortunate in that many of our empty properties are solidly built and as a council we’re determined that families get to enjoy them. Demolition has far too often been an easy option, and still is in many parts of the country, but in the current climate of cuts if you are to bring back communities you need to think differently.
“I’m very proud of the Homes for a Pound scheme, nowhere else has managed to deliver this and its brilliant to see it coming to fruition. And when it comes to empty properties this is just the eye-catching tip of the iceberg of what Liverpool is doing to rebuild communities. The Liverpool Housing Partnership is a wonderful example of public-private sector collaboration and the new Liverpool Housing Company will take that to a completely new level.”