A LOCAL authority is going to buy up empty properties to renovate to use for a project helping vulnerable people find a permanent place to live.

Darlington Borough Council has been given more than £290,000 for the project, which will run over three years and will support those with high-level needs, who are most at risk of rough sleeping.

There has been a significant demand for the council's homeless service during lockdown, with a 525 per cent increase in the number of nights of emergency accommodation it provided.

The number of homeless people coming forward increased by 12 per cent.

The council plans to use part of the funding to renovate several empty properties in the Northgate area of the town, from which the project will run.

A specialist programme will be created within the council’s homelessness services, with the aim of providing sustainable housing and independence.

It will also provide additional support for those who have complex needs and difficulties in moving into long-term accommodation.

It will offer intense, personalised, accommodation-based support, around the clock for up to three years.

The renovated properties will create eight units of dedicated, self-contained accommodation.

Work will include addiction and mental ill-health support alongside how to manage a tenancy and how to sustain one, by offering long-term solutions to those with the highest needs aiming to deliver a sustainable reduction in rough sleeping.

It is expected the accommodation will be available by next March.

Councillor Kevin Nicholson, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for health and housing, said: “It’s great news that we have been successful in our bid for homelessness funding, which includes £182,000 to allow us to buy up and renovate several poor quality, empty properties to provide much-needed accommodation to those most in need.

“This will also link in with our efforts to help regenerate the Northgate area of the town and should be available for use by March next year, with ongoing support for those in need for the next three years.”

The funding of £292,385, was given to the council by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government from its Next Steps for Rough Sleepers.

The council was among 276 schemes successful in bidding for the funding.