Future strategy for private-sector housing in Northumberland

A housing development iin Warkworth.
A housing development iin Warkworth.

Northumberland County Council is consulting on its future strategy for private-sector housing.

The council wants to make sure that there are good-quality and affordable homes available in the private sector across the county – whether to buy or to rent. It also wants to increase the number of private homes that are available by tackling empty properties, and to improve rented homes and management standards by working with private landlords.

Around 81 per cent of Northumberland’s 138,534 homes are in the private sector, either owner-occupied (66 per cent) or rented from a private landlord (15 per cent).

As a housing authority, Northumberland County Council has a legal duty to identify and meet housing need, and this includes in the private sector.

The main aims of the new private-sector housing strategy are to encourage and enable owner occupiers to maintain and repair their homes; maximise the use of the existing housing stock; improve energy efficiency in the private sector; and bring empty homes back into use.

Once adopted, the strategy will be the county council’s main plan for owner-occupied and privately-rented homes in Northumberland, covering the period to 2020. The draft strategy is accompanied by a draft action plan which sets out what the council hopes to achieve and by when, and this plan will also be used to monitor progress over time.

Coun Allan Hepple, cabinet member responsible for economic growth at Northumberland County Council, said: “Through all of its housing work, the council wants to ensure that people across Northumberland have access to a home that is safe, warm and affordable, and that help and support is available to those who are unable to meet their own housing needs. This new strategy is considering the private-sector side of this.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of households in the private rented sector – up a huge 40 per cent from 2001 to 2011. This makes it even more important that the council fully understands the private rental market and engages with landlords, agents and tenants to promote good quality standards. I would encourage all individuals and agencies with an interest to have a look at the strategy and make any comments they have.”

Consultation on the draft strategy is open until Thursday, July 2. You can view or download the draft strategy on the council’s website and make your comments online or in writing to the planning and housing team at County Hall in Morpeth. For further information, email PlanningStrategy@northumberland.gov.uk

Meanwhile, under new measures due to come into force in October, landlords will be required by law to provide smoke detectors at each property they manage. Where the property has a solid-fuel heating appliance installed, they will also have to supply a carbon-monoxide detector.

It will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the alarms are in working order at the start of each new tenancy and failure to comply with the legislation could result in a £5,000 fine.

To help landlords in the run-up to the introduction of the legislation, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has secured a supply of detectors for private landlords in the Northumberland area.

They will be issued by Northumberland County Council’s private-sector housing team which has been working with landlords to raise property and management standards through a voluntary property accreditation scheme since 2009.

Smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide alarms are available to any landlord so long as they use them at properties in Northumberland. Supplies are limited and will be issued on a first come, first served basis. For further information or to request alarms, contact the private-sector housing team by phone on 01670 623071 or email PrivateSectorHousing@northumberland.gov.uk

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