An £8.5million fund to help communities deliver discounted homes has been announced by the Government and could provide further opportunities in Northumberland.
Since Monday, May 13, volunteer groups have been able to apply for between £10,000 and £50,000 to help identify suitable sites for discounted homes, get planning permission and for other technical support.
Further free specialist advice and guidance will also be made available for those who participate in the three-year pilot project, which aims to provide cut-price homes for younger people and families in need of housing, through locally-led neighbourhood plans.
Housing Minister Kit Malthouse said: “Supporting volunteers who are passionate about building more of the homes we need in their communities is something I’m fully behind, and I want to see far more people getting involved across England.”
This could be welcome news for many towns and villages in Northumberland where second and holiday properties often leave locals unable to afford a home.
The new pilot is for houses for people to buy at discounted rates, allowing them to secure mortgages in areas where they are currently locked out of the market by high prices.
But it follows Northumberland County Council in March allocating £1million it had received from the Government to support community-led housing projects providing homes to rent.
These schemes are where parish councils or other community groups own and have a long-term role in the management of the properties, which are not subject to Right to Buy and are for rent at affordable rates in perpetuity.
And earlier this year, we reported that one north Northumberland community is taking matters into its own hands in a bid to create a new affordable home to let.
Embleton Joint Burial Committee (EJBC) plans to convert Cemetery House, at Spitalford Cemetery, into a home for social rent using a grant and a public loan.
The EJBC was successful in obtaining a £49,500 grant from a new Government scheme offering grants via local authorities for the renovation of properties for this purpose.
It is now awaiting the outcome of a bid to the Public Works Loan Board for £25,000 to cover the remaining costs.
One of those involved in this project, Bryn Owen, described the Government announcement as ‘interesting’.
“It is certainly something that is needed in the rural areas and has been neglected for too long,” he added.
Local Government Association housing spokesman, Coun Martin Tett, said: “The Government’s announcement of £8.5million is a positive step and will support some communities to take forward the delivery of discounted homes in their area.
“It is important that local community groups receive the encouragement and support to ensure they work with councils so that the right people get the right support.
“However, in order to tackle the national housing shortage, councils also need to be empowered to build more affordable, good-quality homes at scale, and fast.”
He added: “A genuine renaissance in council house-building is the only way to boost housing supply, help families struggling to meet housing costs, and tackle the housing waiting lists many councils have.”
Northumberland County Council has been carrying out a consultation, which closes today (Friday, May 31) on its draft housing strategy for 2019-2021, which includes the goal of delivering 1,000 new council-owned homes over the next three years.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service