Rural communities in Northumberland are being encouraged to take the lead on developing affordable homes in their area.
Northumberland County Council has approved a community housing fund policy which sets out how the authority aims to allocate a £1.3million community housing fund.
The funding, allocated earlier this year by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), will be used to support a number of activities, ranging from helping local communities to establish appropriate partnerships to develop community-led housing schemes to the actual provision of affordable housing.
The council is working with Community Action Northumberland (CAN) to develop Communities CAN, a community-led housing hub, which will help identify towns and villages where there is an interest in community-led housing schemes as a way of addressing the need for affordable housing.
It will also help local organisations identify practical opportunities for developments (both new-build and refurbishments), as well as raising awareness and understanding of the issues facing many communities across Northumberland.
Communities CAN will support local groups in setting up a fully-constituted community group, such as those already established in Stocksfield and Wooler, to take forward affordable-housing schemes, especially where there are high numbers of second homes, which are often found in rural and coastal communities.
In parts of Northumberland such as Beadnell, as many as 52 per cent of households are holiday or second homes, according to figures compiled from the most recent census, council tax and business-rates payments. Bamburgh, Embleton, Holy Island and Alnmouth are other areas of high second occupancy.
While tourist spending is welcomed in the county, such trends can also keep out first-time buyers by creating a shortage of available properties for locals and ultimately impact upon the viability of smaller communities.
Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, said: “Through this funding we are encouraging communities, who want to take on the provision of affordable homes for people living and working in their area, to come forward.”