400 affordable homes on way in Shields and Jarrow

NEW HOMES ON WAY... the site at Simonside Park.
NEW HOMES ON WAY... the site at Simonside Park.

more than 400 new homes could be built over the next five years as part of a drive to help more people get on to the property ladder.

Under a new approach, South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust Ltd is to take the lead role in building desperately needed affordable homes for rent or shared ownership on behalf of the council.

The new, not-for-profit company will have the chance to access private finance and grant funding in the future that would not otherwise be available to the council.

Members of the council’s cabinet agreed that housing development sites at Saxon Way in Jarrow, and West Way and Simonside Park in South Shields, be transferred to the new company to enable it to develop and own 108 new affordable homes.

That means the first properties to be built under the scheme will be 55 homes in Saxon Way and 33 in West Way, with work on both sites expected to start in January, together with the purchase of 20 under-construction bungalows for rent at Simonside Park in South Shields.

It’s hoped that in turn will lead to more local employment and apprenticeships being on offer.

Those developments are being supported by a grant of £440,000 from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.

The new trust will work closely with the authority to ensure it builds new homes and meets local needs.

Properties will be managed by South Tyneside Homes – which looks after the borough’s social housing stock of about 18,000 – and allocated through the council’s allocations policy.

Coun Jim Foreman, the council’s lead member for housing, said: “At the end of the day this model we’re talking about is needed because there is just not the funding coming from the government to completely build affordable homes.”

Coun Foreman said the trust-built homes would not be subject to the Right to Buy policy – under which, since 1979, tenants have been able to buy their council homes. He said: “The Government has broken its promise on Right to Buys. They said that for every Right to Buy property sold there would be no net loss of council housing.

“Well, since April 2012 there have been 10,954 houses sold nationwide under the Right to Buy umbrella – and yet there have only been 1,662 replacements.

“We will be bucking the national trend because of the 100 sold in our borough there are 108 replacements. There’s no net loss here.”

George Mansbridge, head of development services at South Tyneside Council, said the new approach was “not a model that would rival Barratt or Miller Homes” but rather something to provide a range of “high-quality homes”.

He added: “Housing is really important in South Tyneside. If you can get the housing offer right, it actually makes a big impact on people’s lives.

“It’s important in putting investment in housing and in affordable housing in particular, as there is a huge demand for that.

“Our ambition is to build at least 400 homes for rent and that’s a big investment.

“We were the first local authority in the country to build new homes through the Local Authority ‘New Build Programme’, funded by the Homes and Communities Agency, we built 55 homes for older people through that route, but then that funding was taken away from us and we had to look at doing it via a different route.

“If we build 400 new homes in the next five years then South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust will be one of the biggest and most important social housing providers in the borough. It will be a big player.” The new company is in the process of becoming a Registered Provider of Social Housing and will hold its inaugural board meeting later this month when its board will be appointed.

It will be made up of seven members – four independent representatives, including the chairman, and three council representatives.

In a report to be presented to the full council tomorrow at South Shields Town Hall, David Cramond, the authority’s corporate director of economic regeneration, says: “South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust provides the opportunity to develop new homes to meet the housing needs of local people.

“It will also seek to provide opportunities to provide local jobs and apprenticeships.

“The council will have 100 per cent of nominations in perpetuity to the new homes built through the Trust.

“The homes will also be let in accordance with the council’s allocation policy and managed by virtue of a separate management agreement by South Tyneside Homes.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul