HOMEOWNERS in Fareham that leave properties empty could be offered cheap loans of more than £10,000 to help bring them back into use.

Fareham Borough Council is also considering toughening up on enforcement action on landlords who leave homes uninhabited.

A “carrot and stick” approach has been suggested to try to bring some of the 998 homes currently empty in the borough back into use.

The council has an Empty Home Loan scheme limited to £10,000, but will consider whether it should be extended to encourage more owners to carry out renovations. It would mean owners of a typical three-bedroom semi could get around £40,600 in interest-free credit from the council, to be repaid monthly.

The loans would only be made for properties that have serious defects and could not be reasonably occupied – and the funds would have to be used to make the property fit for purpose.

The authority can also issue Empty Dwelling Management Orders, allowing them to take over the management of an empty property for more than seven years.

A target of bringing ten empty homes back into use a year has been suggested and a report to be discussed by the council says reducing the number of empty homes will reduce criticism it receives for approving plans for new homes.

The council is pressing ahead with plans to build up to 10,000 homes on fields north of Fareham.

The executive will decide today if it should set aside £100,000 for the new loans scheme.