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 council aims to allocate a £1.3m 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% of households are holiday or second homes, according to figures compiled from the most recent census, and from council tax and business rates payments.

Bamburgh, Embleton, Holy Island and Alnmouth are other areas of high ‘second occupancy’, which is at record levels across England. Whilst 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.

Cllr John Riddle, cabinet member for housing at  the council, said: “Establishing this policy is a really exciting step for Northumberland, in allowing the proper devolution of monies to communities to bring forward community-led housing schemes which can benefit their area.

“Having the right number and variety of affordable homes is a major issue for many parts of the county, in particular areas where there are high numbers of second homes.

“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.

“The partnership with CAN allows us to look at innovative ways of developing affordable homes, at a time where, as a council, it is challenging for us to meet the needs of all of our communities experiencing a shortfall in the number of affordable homes.”

Andy Dean, chief executive of CAN, said: “We are delighted to be working with the council on this crucial issue for rural communities.

“Community-led housing is a proven and growing method of delivering affordable homes in a way often more acceptable to local communities.

“Through this initiative we want to be able to support the development of more schemes, where they are clearly needed and wanted, through new and existing community-led organisations.”

For more information on how to get involved contact info@ca-north.org.uk

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