Hundreds of South Shields homes to get green makeover under £5.5million grant

Hundreds of homes are to get a green makeover under plans to use a multi-million pound government grant to improve council homes in South Tyneside.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 1:14 pm

Earlier this year, South Tyneside Council received around £5.5million from central government as part of its Green Homes Grant scheme.

This has been earmarked locally to improve council housing stock, with a focus on low income households.

The planned works aim to deliver energy improvements and de-carbonisation measures to help reduce fuel poverty.

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Hundreds of homes are to get a green makeover.

At a recent meeting of the council’s Housing Performance Panel, it was revealed that the funding will be targeted to improve around 500 council homes in the Cleadon Park ward.

This followed guidance from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to focus the grant on a specific area as part of a ‘whole house approach.’

“We were successful in getting a bid from the Green Homes Grant which was £5.5million,” said Anna Milner, operations manager for housing strategy.

“This was to bring approximately 500 of our properties up to EPC C rating and the bid was something that we had to turn around very quickly.

The issue was discussed at a council meeting.

“Although our long-term aim is to engage with other social and private landlords, to meet the timescales of this it’s only council housing that’s included within this grant.

“We’re obviously focusing on low income households to try and address fuel poverty, so it’s not just about the property not meeting the C rating, we also have to make an assessment of the tenant to meet that criteria set by the central government.”

Councillors heard that South Tyneside Council had bid for a Green Homes Grant of £8.5million and despite missing out on the full amount, it received one of the highest returns of the grant.

Engagement work is currently taking place with tenants and residents about improvements to council homes, with the Green Homes Grant funding needing to be spent by March 2022.

Council housing chief Anna Milner added: “The vast majority of those 500 homes, when we went back to the central government, they said rather than scattergun it across the local authority we want to just concentrate it in one area.

“So the vast majority are in the Cleadon Park ward but that doesn’t mean we won’t look to get additional funding for other wards and other areas that we think are going to benefit from this kind of investment.”

Councillor Paul Milburn said he was “struggling with the logic applied” for using the Cleadon Park ward as a starting point and that bungalows could have been prioritised instead.

“They’re more vulnerable people to start with, you get more bang for your buck because bungalows are only single-storey and you will get more properties covered with limited resources,” he said.

But housing bosses confirmed capital funds could still be used to improve council properties that don’t fit into the criteria set by central government.

The council’s housing management company, South Tyneside Homes, is also undertaking borough-wide stock condition surveys and energy performance certificates to enable a more strategic approach to future funding.

Councillor Jim Foreman, cabinet member for housing and transport, said a wider approach to fuel poverty was needed going forward.

This included accessing Government grants but also helping residents by signposting them towards advice and guidance.

“I think what we need to do is help the residents to help themselves and future funding coming along we need to be at the forefront of it,” he added.

“Also we need to identify where the true hotspots are in South Tyneside, because I think the 8.7% [of households living in fuel poverty] is just the tip of the iceberg.”

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