A CAMPAIGN to bring hundreds of empty private homes back on to the rented market began last week with the opening of eight high-quality flats.

Around 3,000 houses and flats stand empty in Waltham Forest and nationally the figure rockets to 660,000.

Once council and housing association accommodation and homes for sale have been subtracted from the local figures, the borough has 1,300 long-term empty homes.

Now, thanks to a national campaign by the Empty Homes Agency and close co-operation between private landlords and the council, unoccupied properties are coming back on line.

Last Monday, eight flats in Carisbrooke Road, Walthamstow, were opened to new tenants taken off the top of the borough's social housing waiting list.

The council had worked closely with the landlords during the refurbishment and injected £110,000 into the project, in return for rent for three years between the social and market rate.

Paul Ahmed, the borough's empty housing officer, said the approach was working.

He said: "You can see from this project that we are making progress.

"People are going to move off the waiting list and into this quality accommodation and help will be there for them from the council during the tenancy, to make sure there are no problems for them or the landlord.

"We would like to do a lot more of this kind of thing so we are asking the landlords of those long-term empty homes to talk to us.

"This scheme is good for us, because it gets people off the list and into decent accommodation, and good for the landlords because their properties are brought back into circulation and refurbished."

Grants of up to £10,000 are available for landlords who need to refurbish homes and are willing to work with the council.

Jonathan Ellis, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said: "For a host of reasons bringing these homes back into circulation makes sense.

"From an environmental perspective, refurbishing a home produces so much less CO2 than building a new one.

"Making better use of our existing stock will make London a greener city."

Howard Joseph, managing director of Twenty First Century Homes, the landlord behind the transformed property, said: "I think this will work well for all the parties.

"There are more guarantees for landlords with this system than there were before."

Anyone with information on empty properties should contact Paul Ahmed on 8496 6502 or e-mail paul.ahmed@hsg.lbwf-.gov.uk.