Housing MJ: Delivering housing today, tomorrow...and beyond

By Cllr Linda Hobson | 30 August 2020

Government plans to tackle the housing crisis by changing the planning system fail to recognise the problem isn’t as simple as a shortage of homes, and giving developers the right to build more homes for sale won’t solve the complex issues faced outside of London and the South East.

Building houses with little or no consideration of what’s needed won’t help people who can’t afford or don’t want to buy a home, disabled people to live independently or older people to stay in the home they love.

Newcastle City Council has ambitious plans to provide more and better homes so everyone has the right to a decent place to live. Our approach makes the best use of existing housing stock while focusing investment on new homes where it’s needed the most.

We understand that the place we call home is about more than bricks and mortar and providing good quality homes is about more than building houses. Young people leaving home, growing families that need more space, adults who need support all deserve homes that meet their needs and aspirations.

With the highest levels of investment in 30 years almost half of the 5,000 new homes built in the city in the last five years have been as a result of direct contributions from the council, including more than 1,000 affordable homes in three years.

New models, such as our Housing Delivery Framework, use council owned land, grants and Homes England funding to build affordable homes for rent, shared ownership homes and specialist housing such as assisted living and core and cluster developments.

Our innovative Annuity Lease Back Model (ALBM) attracted around £40m of external finance to build new affordable and accessible council homes for rent. The first phase saw 148 new properties including apartments with on-site care and accessible bungalows with electric charging ports built and with work on phase two now underway we’ll see another 199 new homes by 2022

We’re the first local authority in England to build Rent to Buy homes, giving first-time buyers an opportunity to take their first step onto the housing ladder. More than 120 people registered their interest within 24 hours of the 21 homes being advertised and residents will move in soon.

We’re helping reduce the carbon footprint using modern construction methods such modular homes; and by delivering mixed tenure developments we’re creating cohesive communities to help reduce social isolation.

We’ve invested more than £10m from the Housing Revenue Account to improve existing homes including remodelling sheltered housing schemes to create 174 modern, accessible homes with attractive shared spaces.

We recognise that empty homes are wasted resources that bring no benefit to the owner or to communities, so our Empty Homes Team take a proactive approach to identifying empty properties and helping owners bring them back to life. Since 2017 the team has helped bring 2,000 empty homes back into use including some that have been empty for over 20 years.

The council is committed to improving standards in the private rented sector and earlier this year successfully launched our second selective licensing scheme. Private Rented Service Newcastle’s (PRSN) Newcastle Accreditation Scheme raises standards by recognising landlords who offer safe, decent, well managed homes. Landlords achieving the standard can access free services including our Tenant Finder Service and Landlords Training Programme. PRSN also supports tenants with a home finder service, rent deposit scheme and tenants advice service.

Our nationally accredited home improvement agency, Care and Repair Newcastle, provides adaptations, equipment loans and an equity release scheme to help older and disabled people to live independently in their own homes. My Home, My Future helps residents identify alternative housing options and if it is time to move home, Move Assist can help take the stress out of it.

Our approach to housing has received national recognition. We’ve been named Northern Housing Awards Local Authority of the Year for the last two years and our Brockwell Grove development has just been shortlisted in the Best New Housing Development and Best Affordable Housing Development categories at the Northern LABC Building Excellence Awards. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved but there is more to do, which is why our plans include a wide range of housing options that will make Newcastle an even better place to live.

Councillor Linda Hobson is cabinet member for housing at Newcastle City Council

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