Does Sunderland need more ‘executive’ housing? Vote in our poll as city Conservatives call for new homes

City Conservatives have called on council bosses to build more executive housing to draw families to Sunderland.

Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 11:43 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 4:56 pm
Leader of Sunderland City Councils Conservative group, Coun Robert Oliver.

In recent weeks, it was revealed that Sunderland City Council is facing an affordable housing imbalance with more than 2,000 people waiting for social housing that meets their needs.

At the council’s last full council meeting on January 30, a public question was lodged from Rachel Featherstone, calling for action on the issue.

Sunderland Civic Centre.

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The question read: “Would the council pledge to make providing these homes a priority rather than the wholly unnecessary executive homes they plan on the green belt?”

At the meeting, cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Coun Stuart Porthouse, said the Conservative ‘right to buy’ policy was removing large numbers of homes from the rented sector.

He added the council’s local plan until 2033 would help boost the number of social homes, with a requirement for housing developments above 10 units to provide 15% affordable housing.

However, leader of the Conservative group on the council, Coun Robert Oliver,  has since argued that a sole focus on social homes is an “unrealistic choice”.

Cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Coun Stuart Porthouse.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “Gentoo build good- standard social housing in Sunderland, including bungalows, for years but nowhere near enough in numbers.

“So there is a need for more affordable homes of different types to accommodate first-time buyers and families on low incomes.

“But executive-style houses are also essential and all private builders should be encouraged to develop in the right locations in Sunderland.

“There is a lack of executive homes across Wearside resulting in families living in the periphery in Durham or South Tyneside which is a loss to the city.”

He added: “If Sunderland is to move forward we need to attract more high-income families to live, work and spend locally and housing is key to that.

“A new medical school is coming on track which is a real boost to the city but we need to ensure graduates will be able to live and practice here.

“The lack of executive homes is also affecting the council’s finances with 62% of properties in the lowest council tax band and only 1% in the top three bands.

“Consequently too little revenue is raised locally-and much less than in other parts of the region- leaving the council too dependent on central government funding.”

The draft Core Strategy and Development Plan looks at jobs, business growth, transport links and housing needs in the city from now until 2033.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat and Others groups previously voted against the plan over the lack of specific responses to public concerns around the green belt.

However, Labour’s Coun Porthouse has stressed the plan will help deliver a mix of affordable homes and larger detached family properties on available land in the city.

“The long-term success of the local plan is dependent on continuing public consultation and dialogue across  the council chamber with opposition councillors including Coun Oliver,” he said.

“He is well aware that the plan will call for developers to provide 15% affordable homes, rather than 10% at present, while there are already planning applications for larger detached housing at sites across the city.

“However I can’t understand councillor Oliver’s position as he and his opposition Tory group including the Liberals voted against the local plan moving forward to the next stage which is the ‘examination In public’.

“Coun Oliver really needs to decide where he and his group stand on housing.”

The local plan aims to build 13,410 more homes by 2033  with an average of 745 per year.

It is expected to be examined by a independent planning inspector in public this year before a final decision is made.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service