Housing Minister John Healey has hailed the start of the biggest council house building programme in nearly two decades as work began today on the first of over two thousand new homes to help tackle waiting list pressures.
Mr Healey saw work get underway today in Tyneside on the first new site for Government funded council housing in the country. Many more sites across the country will follow in the coming weeks as the £141 million council housing drive, which is set to create over five thousand construction jobs, gets underway.
This is part of an extra £1.5 billion in the Housing Pledge Mr Healey made in June to build an additional 20,000 much needed affordable homes. As well as getting councils building homes again, this power of Government investment is getting housebuilding work restarted on stalled sites during the recession, and helping Housing Associations build more affordable homes - creating 45,000 extra jobs and nearly 3000 new apprenticeships in the industry.
Nearly £600,000 Government funding for Brancepeth Road, Hebburn has helped to get these first fifteen homes underway. Two more sites in Hebburn and South Shields will also start shortly as part of a drive across South Tyneside to create new homes designed for older tenants. The new homes will help ensure that tenants are provided with housing best suited to them and help reduce waiting list pressure in the area.
The minister also said that there was more funding to come for councils, with the second round of council house funding set for announcement later this month.
Housing minister John Healey said:
"The first spade is in the ground today and marks the beginning of the biggest council house building programme for nearly two decades. Many more sites across the country will be up and running in the coming weeks, and in a matter of days I will give the green light to funding for further council house building.
"Today Tyneside shows how the power of Government investment is tackling the shortage of affordable housing and also creating new jobs and supporting the construction industry when it needs it most.
"Alongside the extra leeway I am giving councils to manage their waiting lists according to local pressures, the new building started today will help councils tackle the housing needs of their communities."
Pat Ritchie, regional director of the Homes and Communities Agency, said:
"We are delighted that the three developments in South Tyneside can now move forward to deliver quality, affordable supported housing for the elderly.
"This significant investment will provide purpose-built bungalows to help meet the high demand for properties suitable for elderly residents, which in turn will increase the availability of family homes in the South Tyneside area - stimulating the local housing market and supporting the wider regeneration programme."
Councillor Bill Brady, South Tyneside Council’s Lead Member for Housing Futures, said:
"We are very proud that South Tyneside is the first place in the country to see construction work start on new council houses under this programme. We worked very hard to secure Government funding, and the fruits of these efforts will soon be there for all to see.
"Our Borough is in need of more older people's accommodation, and we have a very high demand for affordable two-bedroom bungalows. Thanks to this programme, we can now look forward to the sight of 27 such properties taking shape on three sites in South Tyneside. These properties will be available for social rent and will form part of our efforts to deliver more affordable homes for people in South Tyneside, which is one of our top priorities."
The start of construction today is a major milestone in a wide ranging package of measures to support councils to meet the housing needs of their communities.
In addition to the £141million funding which, when match-funded by councils, is expected to build over 2,000 council homes, Mr Healey also recently launched the first-ever national crackdown on tenancy cheats, to recover up to 10,000 council and housing association homes from fraudulent subletting over this and next year, and release them to those in real need.
He has also given councils more flexibility in how they manage their waiting lists. He also called on councils to do more to tackle the myths and misunderstandings about housing waiting lists, so local people can have confidence that the system is fair.
And he has launched plans to dismantle the current council housing finance system and replace it with a clearer, more transparent system. Under the revised system, councils will keep all their own rents and revenue to finance their housing services, in exchange for a one-off allocation of housing debt.
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