A PIONEERING plan to establish a charity to help build more than 100 vitally-needed new homes in South Tyneside has been revealed.
The scheme would see the charitable organisation act as landowner, developer and landlord at seven council-owned sites across the borough after taking over the land at a nominal cost.
The charity would then be free to apply to the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency to become a registered housing provider and get grants to build affordable homes for rent.
The seven sites identified are the former library in Sunderland Road, South Shields; a disused garage site in Hardie Drive, West Boldon; the old St Peter’s School site in Friar Way, Jarrow; land in Wark Crescent at Fellgate; an ex-bungalow site in West Way, South Shields; former residential garages in Hindmarch Drive, West Boldon and land adjacent to a park in Stanley Street, Jarrow.
With South Tyneside Council now no longer able to get Government funds to build traditional council homes, the plan is seen as an innovative way forward.
The total value of the sites identified is almost £2m and all the rents are to be set at affordable levels.
In addition to houses, a range of thermally-efficient bungalows and apartments for older people will be built.
The homes will not be council homes, but will be managed by South Tyneside Homes, as is the authority’s existing housing stock.
The land and homes could not be returned to the ownership of the council, members of the Housing Performance Panel will be informed next week.
Committee chairman, Coun Eddie McAtominey, said: “The establishment of this charity organisation would pave the way for various financial benefits, not least exemption from VAT.
“It is a new approach to housing for us but we are exploring various other avenues with the private sector and with housing associations to replace traditional council housing.
“We still have a duty to our residents to provide affordable homes.
“We know it’s not the easiest time to launch this but we are confident of success.”
Coun McAtominey also revealed that the council is searching for a name to give the new organisation.
He said: “It will be based in South Tyneside and it will be building homes. But that name is already taken.
“We are looking for a name that is modern, futuristic and a little bit different. We’d welcome and consider any names put forward.”
Members of the Housing Performance Panel will meet in the committee suite at South Shields Town Hall on Wednesday.
A report to the committee says: “By adopting this approach, the council is able to control the quality of the development and keep costs to a minimum because of the charitable status of the organisation delivering the project.
“It is hoped the building contracts will be resourced locally, which will ensure that local business benefit.
“There will be a requirement to ensure that the charitable organisation is correctly set up and that contracts comply with procurement frameworks.
“If the project does not succeed, there will be a risk to the number of new properties which the council will be able to deliver in the borough.”
If anyone has a name idea for the new charity housing organisation, send a postcard to Name the Charity, Shields Gazette, Chapter Row, South Shields, NE33 IBL or email www.shieldsgazette.com.