Plans for a council to become directly involved in the build of new affordable homes will be discussed this month by members of its Cabinet.
Durham County Council has developed a housing plan to ensure that the right housing is available to meet the needs of its residents.
The adopted County Durham Housing Strategy 2019 to 2024 has two key objectives, to ‘maximise the delivery of affordable homes in the county’ and a commitment to ‘deliver homes to meet the needs of older people within our communities and supporting people to live independently for as long as possible’.
As part of this plan, in March earlier this year, Cabinet agreed a report with proposals for the council to build more social housing to rent at affordable rates for residents, in particular looking at homes for the elderly and those with specialist needs.
To support the council’s overall housing strategy, Cabinet will now consider a second proposal to become actively involved in the direct delivery of affordable homes to assist the market in meeting housing needs in the county.
Proposals have been made to build up to 500 new homes between 2021 and 2026 with an annual review to assess the delivery of the build. This would help up to 500 families access high quality but affordable homes.
The new building programme would also support the ongoing economic and community recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. A 500-home programme would result in a total capital spend of approximately £70 million, which would help support the local construction industry and associated supply chain during the extended coronavirus recovery period.
There is an annual requirement to deliver 836 affordable homes, however, the current delivery of affordable homes falls short of this. While the county is already performing well in meeting housing needs for residents, the housing strategy seeks to close this gap by focusing on providing additional new affordable housing to meet a proportion of the annual shortfall.
The housing plan will continue to address the issues around empty homes and continue to invest in existing stock through projects such as improving the energy efficiency of properties. The council will also be working in close partnership with registered social landlords to help carry out the provision of affordable housing.
Cllr Kevin Shaw, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for strategic housing and assets, said: “As a council we have acted very positively to meet current and future need for housing across our county by developing our new housing strategy, which puts people and communities first and aims to maintain and improve standards across the county’s housing stock.
“We want to ensure that the housing needs of the community are fully met, and that the support mechanisms are in place to help those who need it most. This includes developing an approach to ensure affordable homes are built in the right places to meet the needs of residents, especially those who are older or vulnerable.
“We also want to see a significant shift towards brownfield funding to unlock affordable housing development in the right areas without impacting on our countryside and green spaces.
“Our direct involvement in providing social housing to meet identified need is a hugely significant step forward. This will help to close the annual shortfall gap not only by providing much needed affordable, secure and sustainable homes within the community, but, importantly, by also freeing up homes for others.”
Mary Kelly Foy, MP for the City of Durham, said: “I welcome the news that Durham County Council is working on a plan to develop and provide affordable housing across the county.
“As we look toward a post-Covid future, and the recovery of our community, it is paramount that there is a focus on affordable, high quality housing being available for families and individuals across the county. The construction of new homes will also provide a welcome financial boost to the local construction industry at a time when it is most needed.
“A home is something that many of us take for granted but, for many people, insecure tenancies, unhelpful landlords and a lack of certainty relating to employment can cause a lot of anxiety and stress for tenants in the long run. The fact that Durham County Council is looking to provide more, crucial social housing should be applauded. It will no doubt help our communities to flourish, revamp areas with empty houses which are in need of regeneration and, most importantly – provide homes to residents who would otherwise be unable to access one.”
Cabinet will meet virtually at 9.30am on Wednesday, October 14.