A crime chief has criticised a housing association for selling off more than 100 of a village’s social homes on the open market.
Residents of the “numbered streets” in Horden are furious that auctions are being held by Accent Homes in London and Newcastle.
Durham University researchers have released a report today warning that the auctions will lead to a spiral of decline among the community, but Accent disputes some of the report’s details.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Durham, Ron Hogg today slammed the actions of Accent, saying: “Crime and fear of crime are already high in Horden.
“I am worried that the outcome for residents is unclear, and I would like to see the process paused so that consultation with local people can take place before going any further.”
In 2010, Accent announced it would undertake a programme of renovation of its housing stock in Horden’s numbered streets.
“I am worried that the outcome for residents is unclear, and I would like to see the process paused so that consultation with local people can take place before going any further.”Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg
A total of £15million was promised to the area as a whole, initially including £7million to be spent on the numbered streets.
The university report claims the housing association has already earned £1.6million from the sales.
Professor Rachel Pain, of Durham University, author of the report, said: “Accent are set to earn millions from selling off what is a public asset.
“So far, they haven’t listened to the community’s wishes, or protected the neighbourhood by placing conditions on who buys the properties.”
Horden Colliery Residents’ Association is now appealing for the sales to be halted by Accent.
Its campaign in 2015 to develop a community-owned housing scheme had wide support and attracted initial funding.
But it says when Accent started the sales in September, the community ran out of time to raise the funds needed.
Pat Barnett, chairman of the residents’ group said: “We are asking for a share of the profits from Accent.
“This is social housing that should never be sold at auction, and any profits should support the community that live here.
“It was once a fantastic place to live with a strong sense of community, and we believe that we can make that happen again.
“But we need time and the support of the agencies involved.”
Some of the auctions have taken place in London, raising concerns about absentee landlords.
Professor Pain added: “We have seen in many other places what happens when precarious housing stock is put on the open market – it is often bought by private investors outside the area who are after a quick profit. Social housing is desperately needed in the North East, and both Accent and the Government are neglecting their responsibilities here.”
In response to the publication of the report, a spokeswoman for Accent Homes said: “We have 22,000 residents across the country and it is our responsibility to them to ensure we invest in those communities where we can make the most difference.
“Whilst Professor Pain does acknowledge that Horden needs a systematic, joined-up approach, it is disappointing that she doesn’t acknowledge the impact national housing policy is having on housing associations and local authorities in making their ability to make local solutions so very difficult to achieve.”