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LONDON-It is one of the paradoxes of the UK housing market that, in the middle of one of the strongest bull markets ever seen, there are still areas where the housing market is in a state of collapse. In parts of Manchester properties cannot be given away and owner occupiers are simply abandoning them.

To reverse this trend, which has damaging social consequences, the government has just made the first grant of £125 million ($210 million) out of its £500 million ($835 million) housing market renewal fund. The money will go to revitalise communities in the Salford area of Manchester blighted by collapsing housing demand.

The area is characterised by falling property values, leaving many owners in negative equity and a poor living environment. This has resulted in an exodus of economically active households while those unable to move are trapped in spiralling decline.

Announcing the grant Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said: “Everyone has the right to a decent home, a home in a real community. The significant investment and action for Manchester Salford will break the cycle of deprivation and breathe life into the local communities that for too long have suffered from the blight of low demand.”

Over the period to 2006 the Manchester and Salford housing market renewal pathfinder will use the funds to refurbish, repair or upgrade 13,400 homes; build 1000 modern family homes and clear 1700 redundant and obsolete properties.

And Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said: “People are fed up of crumbling estates and streets of abandoned houses. This is a chance to rebuild communities and neighbourhoods for local people to be proud of.” But she warned: “We are not going to see improvements overnight. The reality is that it may be 10 or 15 years before we can look at places like Beswick and Seedley Village and say we have been truly successful.”

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