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Byers highlighted nine areas where decline has become endemic, with boarded up streets and abandoned homes, that will work with government to set up pathfinder projects. The projects will hopefully regenerate the areas through investment and innovation and turn them into desirable communities. The size of the nine areas to be covered varies from 40,000 to 120,000 properties.

Byers said: "Derelict homes don’t just scar the landscape.They make life intolerable for those still living there. Those who can, leave, those left are often trapped in negative equity. Legitimate landlords struggle whilst rogue landlords flourish. Crime is endemic.Hard working people find that their investment in a home of their own is suddenly worth a fraction of its true value.

"The knock on effect is immense, it permeates our towns and cities. Declining areas destroy the fabric of our society."

The Pathfinder projects will initially be formed in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, East Lancashire, Oldham and Rochdale, South Yorkshire, Humberside (Hull), Tyneside, North Staffordshire (Stoke), and Birmingham and Sandwell.

Byers added: "It is not sufficient to tackle the housing problem alone. Local authorities must work closely together with their partners - the police, the health authority, the Regional Development Agency, Housing Corporation and private sector - to rejuvenate our towns and cities.

"The pathfinder projects will have to make some radical decisions in order to regenerate these areas. Low demand and abandoned housing is a major problem. But it also provides a unique opportunity to restructure and rebuild our cities for the twenty first century. We must now seize that opportunity. The Government will work with local people to deliver the change necessary and bring hope to those communities."