Housing is the number one issue in my surgeries and mailbag.
We all know Newcastle is a great city, but it does not have enough homes to meet the needs of the people who live here. With thousands on the housing waiting list, we need to make sure we are building enough new homes and making the best use of what we already have.
Newcastle Council and I are working to make progress on both fronts.
My website’s poll has found that 87% of people in Newcastle want more done to address empty housing. Newcastle has a great track record on reducing ‘empties’, but there’s always more we can do to turn empty houses into homes:
– I want to support more self-help and self-build housing organisations. Simply put, self-help housing is a community-based, ‘bottom-up’ initiative that returns empty housing to use, where a community group will renovate empty properties. There are also an increasing number of ‘self-build’ projects across the country that create affordable homes from scratch.
– Some landlords keep properties empty on purpose in the hope of attracting tenants who will pay higher rents, usually students. When parliament returns I will push the government to introduce measures that allow councils to remove HMOs belonging to landlords who do this. The measure would encourage them to let to families or couples instead.
– I would like to see a Home Improvement Association for landlords in Newcastle. Often landlords do not have the confidence or the means to renovate their property. This organisation would provide useful advice about finance and how to begin improvements.
– We are also looking at ways to make it easier for councils to gain possession of empty properties. This will make sure available housing is put back on the market even if the owner rejects other options.
– I am talking to the Council about introducing a system so residents can easily report empty homes on their website. It would alert the Council directly about where these properties are so they can take action. In the meantime, help us identify empty homes at www.reportemptyhomes.com
New Housing in Benwell and Scotswood
It’s great news that Newcastle’s Labour Council has made big commitment to new builds. They will create 1,800 new, sustainable homes in Benwell and Scotswood over the next 15-20 years, investing £265 million. At least 60% of the homes will have three or four bedrooms, providing families with access to suitable housing.
This is fantastic news for Newcastle. The first phase, which began recently, will see 377 new homes in Scotswood.
Duncan Bowman, Development Director of New Tyne West Development Company, said he was “delighted… we are at a point where house building can begin on this fabulous site. All those concerned deserve great credit for making this happen, not least the local residents…the next few weeks and months will be exciting times for all of us”.
The new homes are an exciting boost, but the benefits do not stop there. New apprenticeships will be created and workshops will help small local businesses bid to become part of the process. Both are part of a larger economic boost which will be felt in the area.
The work in Benwell and Scotswood will be followed up by a larger, long-term policy. The ‘Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan’ looks to create 21,000 new homes in Newcastle and Gateshead, providing the North East with 14,000 new jobs.
The consultation period is between 9th September and 21st October 2013 and I encourage you to take a look at the plans and send any comments to the Council. The opinions of those living in the community are crucial to any redevelopment.
Submissions can be made through Newcastle City Council’s website: http://tinyurl.com/dy7prxk.
You can also get in touch with me or my office if you have any ideas or comments.