Housing shortage could get worse, fear councillors

THOUSANDS of people are unable to get houses of their own because of the large numbers of holiday homes in south east Northumberland, county councillors have been told.

Concern was expressed at the latest meeting of Northumberland County Council’s housing working group, held at County Hall in Morpeth, about the increasing number of people in need of homes.

There are currently more than 13,000 applicants on the county’s housing register, accounting for just under four per cent of the population.

In an effort to address that problem, the working group has been looking at ways to bring some of the hundreds of empty homes in the county back into use.

Working group chairman Gordon Webb, pictured, of Blyth’s Isabella ward, said: “In some areas, we are plagued with numbers of holiday homes standing unused for most of the year.

“We have villages where we are unable to retain local services through the huge numbers of second homes standing idle, where developers build new affordable homes only for them to be snapped up by people wanting a weekend retreat at the coast or in the countryside.

“This may be a desirable attribute for city dwellers, but it is depleting the opportunities for people to gain access to a home and keep communities alive across the county.”

Councillors fear plans being drawn up by the government could make Northumberland’s housing problems even worse.

An open public services paper recommends that arm’s-length management organisations (ALMOs) are made independent, effectively privatising all council housing stock.

Grant Davey, of Blyth’s Kitty Brewster ward, said: “At this moment in time, if Northumberland retains its ALMO, it looks like tenants will have no say in the privatisation of their homes.

“If the government goes ahead with this and its other anti-social housing initiatives, Northumberland’s current housing crisis will turn into a calamity.”

Tom Brechany, executive member for housing at the council and ward councillor for Cramlington South East, said: “The crisis is certainly not one of Northumberland’s making but is being felt right across the UK.”