In 2016, the authority was awarded £1.3million from the Government’s Community Housing Fund, which was established to enable community groups to tackle the problem of high levels of second-home ownership and to deliver housing which is genuinely affordable.
It is known as community-led housing, as 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.
At its meeting on Tuesday (March 12), the council’s cabinet agreed to approve a budget allocation of £1million for community-led housing projects over several years, with the remaining £300,000 of the grant to be used for related revenue expenses, including paying for a dedicated officer to run the programme.
Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We do have communities right across Northumberland who feel forgotten in a way in terms of delivery of homes for local people at rents they can afford. This is one of the tools we are using to deal with that.”
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Coun John Riddle, the cabinet member for housing, added: “It’s a great bottom-up approach and it’s about the right houses in the right place.”
A policy already agreed by the cabinet allows for three forms of financial support for community-led projects, which reflect the three stages of a scheme.
There’s up to £4,000 available to support the creation of community organisations that are legally constituted and can consult with the public, followed by funding for the development of a feasible scheme.
The final stage is the housing development fund, which is available to support up to 50 per cent of the total cost or a maximum aggregated cost of £50,000 per unit, whichever is the lower.
In addition to the £1.3million received by the council, further funding of £163million nationally is now available through Homes England, with local authorities able to bid on behalf of community groups.
Therefore, the cabinet also agreed to authorise bids for this or other community housing pots where the opportunity arises.
Coun Nick Oliver said: “It’s a significant opportunity, particularly in areas where it’s difficult to deliver social or affordable housing and where house prices are very high.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service