'What they have done here is fantastic and inspirational'
YOU couldn’t swing a cat in the living room of nurses Sam and Rachael Kamua when they threw a house-warming party for the nation’s media today.
The are the owners of the first refurbished house in the newest phase of Liverpool City Council’s innovative Homes for £1 scheme, which was enough to bring the camera crews zooming in on the city and the modest terraced house in Webster Road, just off Smithdown. They all wanted to capture a glimpse of what a condemned house house looks like after being bought for a quid.
The transformation of no 104 is to be featured in an upcoming Channel Four series capturing how homes bought for a pound have been born again.
The Kamua’s new mortgage-free abode shows what can be achieved with hard work, nerves of steel and, of course, a spare pound coin.
Liverpool City Council launched the pilot for Homes for £1 in 2015 in the Granby Four Streets area and the second phase in the Picton area in 2016. More than 2,000 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.
The couple signed on the dotted line before they had even seen the outside, but the property proved to be in a bad state of repair.
However they insist they wouldn’t have walked away, even when they saw water cascading down the stairs from rain that had poured in through the holes in the roof.
Or looking down at the floor of the upstairs bathroom and seeing the kitchen below. Over eight months, using builders and contractors they had hired, the house was transformed into a comfortable home for the couple and their two daughters Anne, 19, and Alexis who is 12.
There are two, what estate agents would call, well-appointed living rooms, a spacious kitchen-diner and a French window leading to a patio garden.
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson dropped in with a bunch of flowers (and some Katy tickets for the girls) to welcome the family to their new home, and said he was amazed by the transformation, remarking that he was worried that when the results are shown on television, his wife will order some DIY around the Anderson’s household.
The average price of a house in Britain is now around £250,000, so being able to snap one up for a pound seems a bargain. The deal is purchasers must bring them up to a good, liveable standard, and they can’t flog them for five years.
Mayor Anderson said without the Homes for £1 scheme, which has seen hundreds of similar dwellings brought back to life, the Kamau’s home would have been demolished before they even set eyes on it.
Work is under way on nearby houses that will soon generate new “pound land” neighbours for the family.
As he toured the building, Mayor Joe said: “What they have done is amazing. You can feel the love they have created. They are also helping to rebuild a once thriving community. What they have done here is fantastic and inspirational. It is as good as a brand new home.”
Mrs Kamau, 46, said: “It has been hard work, and we came here every day for eight months as the building work was taking place. Now we have a beautiful family home. We had wondered about a house and how we could raise a deposit and pay a monthly mortgage, then we heard about this scheme.”
Husband Sam, 52, added: “I feel so happy when I come home to our new home after work. We are so grateful to the council for allowing us to buy this house for just one pound.”
The couple won’t say exactly how much they have spent on the transformation, but others have been done up for around £40,000 or £50,000, often doubling or tripling their value once the work has finished.
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."
Liverpool City Council has now launched a match making service aiming to introduce buyers and sellers of vacant properties. All empty home owners have to do is complete a property information form, the details from which will be shared via email to more than 100 investors already registered on the council’s database. To register for the scheme people can email: Emptyhomes@liverpool.gov.uk
'We felt like we’d won the lottery... waking up in your own home is indescribable'
Qualified nurses Rachael and Sam Kamua came from Kenya to live in Liverpool 16 years ago but never dreamed of getting on the property ladder until they qualified for the £1 home scheme.
Mrs Kamua said: "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 minds 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.”