New homes could slash council-house waiting list

HOMES PLAN ... South Tyneside Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, with Coun Ken Stephenson,  Coun Jim Perry and prospective councillor Moira Smith in Jarrow.
HOMES PLAN ... South Tyneside Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, with Coun Ken Stephenson, Coun Jim Perry and prospective councillor Moira Smith in Jarrow.

A RADICAL new plan to slash South Tyneside’s council house waiting list involves building hundreds of new homes in the borough.

South Tyneside Council aims to create a new private not-for-profit property firm to oversee the building of “at least” 400 new homes for rent over the next three years.

The new company – which is yet to be named – will be run by a board of directors and run in tandem with South Tyneside Homes.

The plan is to go before the local authority’s decision-making cabinet for approval later this summer.

It is seen as a vital move to create new social housing in the borough – which has an estimated 4,210 people on the housing waiting list.

The plan comes at a time when persuading private developers to invest in social housing is becoming increasingly difficult, and is seen as an alternative to the council relying on funding from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.

George Mansbridge, the council’s head of housing strategy, said the new limited by guarantee company would be managed by South Tyneside Homes.

He said: “The company would borrow money from the council and that money would be paid back from the rented receipts from properties.

“We consider it to be a low-risk option due to the high demand for rented homes. This is a chance to build homes that people want, but without creating risks for the council.

“The aim is to build at least 400 new properties in the next two to three years.”

Three pieces of land have already been earmarked for transfer to the new company.

Thirty three new houses and bungalows for the elderly are set to be built at West Way, South Shields, and a £4.3m development in Jarrow would see 26 homes created in Stanley Street and a further 29 in Saxon Way – both either side of Dunn Street School.

Applications to build on the two Jarrow sites will go before the council’s planning committee in weeks.

It follows a recent public consultation event held earlier this month in Jarrow Community Centre, at which town residents were able to scrutinise the plans.

Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, visited the proposed Jarrow housing sites with Labour councillors for the Primrose ward, Jim Perry and Ken Stephenson, and prospective ward member Moira Smith.

Count Malcolm said: “The council is committed to improving our 18,500 council houses as well as building new much-needed homes in all areas of the borough.

“This scheme is particularly welcome because Primrose Labour councillors have fought long and hard to commence the work, and now they have been successful.”

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Right to buy will not be applied

THE planned new organisation, which aims to increase the number of local authority homes in South Tyneside, follows a series of changes to the Right to Buy legislation.

Originally introduced by Margaret Thatcher more than 30 years ago, it enabled council tenants to buy their own homes.

The profits from those sales were originally pooled into a national pot – and evenly distributed to local authorities nationwide.

That changed last year when individual councils were given the right to keep a percentage of the capital receipts from houses sold in their areas.

One of the conditions of that change was that this cash is reinvested in affordable housing.

An advantage of forming a private company to build the new homes – rather than the council – is that the new company would be outside the remit of the Right to Buy legislation.

That means the properties built would not be available for sale.

Additionally, a private company will have the advantage of being able to borrow more money.

Local councils have borrowing caps enforced upon them.

The change also coincides with the introduction of both the Localism Act, which gives local authorities additional powers to do innovative things, and a reduction in subsidies for housing associations to build affordable housing – leaving local councils with a greater responsibility to do so.