Sunderland's new housing vision revealed - what does it mean for you?

Sunderland has unveiled its housing strategy for 2017-2022
Sunderland has unveiled its housing strategy for 2017-2022
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Sunderland's civic leaders have unveiled their housing vision for the city over the next five years - with a major need for both luxury and affordable homes.

The draft blueprint - A Housing Strategy for Sunderland 2017-22 - is set to be discussed by the city council cabinet when it meets on Wednesday and will then go out to wider public consultation in the coming months.

Coun Graeme Miller

Coun Graeme Miller

In the report, key areas identified include:

* A need for more executive homes for people in higher income groups to stop them leaving the city.
* An increasing demand for affordable homes across Sunderland, particularly given the current economic situation and impact of welfare reforms.
* Meeting the housing needs of an increasingly older population, with the number of people aged 65+ in Sunderland set to rise by 42% from 2015 to 2039.
* Filling more than 2000 homes which currently stand empty in Sunderland.
* Regenerating neighbourhoods that are showing signs of housing decline and anti-social behaviour, with Hendon, Hetton Downs, Sulgrave, Millfield, Pallion, Eden Vale and New Silksworth Cottages all highlighted.
* Looking after Sunderland's most vulnerable people - with 262 people presenting themselves as homeless citing domestic abuse from partner as the reason during 2015/16.
* Providing healthy homes for people - with damp and excess cold assessed as a major hazard in 1,957 houses in Sunderland's private rented sector.

The report, presented by Coun Graeme Miller, Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, says: "There are currently insufficient new homes to meet the housing needs and aspirations of the city and as such there is a programme to increase housing supply.

"However, Sunderland does not have sufficient available land, in the right places, to build the homes the city needs. This is partially down to its success in delivering a significant amount of brownfield sites.

"As such, it will be necessary to explore different opportunities to increase the city’s housing land supply including: bringing vacant properties back into use; utilising surplus to requirement industrial land, considering some open space that no longer performs its original function and exploring the potential use of Green Belt land.

"The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) assesses potential sites for future housing development and identifies land for 15,581 housing units over the next 15 years of which 4,036 are in the Coalfields, 7,025 in South Sunderland, 2,038 in Central Sunderland, 1,499 in North Sunderland, and 983 in Washington."

The report adds: "The Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) identifies that Sunderland’s housing stock is dominated by terraces and semi-detached properties and there is a shortage of detached dwellings.

"Three quarters of all homes fall into the lowest Council Tax bracket (A and B) which indicates a need to diversify the existing housing stock to ensure that sufficient homes are provided of the right type, in the right place and in the right tenure

"The limited choice in the city’s housing stock and the importance of place and neighbourhoods remains an important factor affecting why people, particularly those within economically active age-groups, leave the city for neighbouring areas. This is particularly prevalent when neighbouring authorities are developing new housing.

"This creates problems for the city, as schools, shops and services come under increasing pressure to remain viable. There is a need to stem outward migration by providing new housing and great neighbourhoods which meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents.

"Currently, approximately 40,000 people commute into the city on a daily basis for employment purposes. We want to provide housing that meets their needs. This will help us move towards more sustainable patterns of development that support opportunities to live, work and socialise without the need to travel long distances.

"There is a particular need to provide executive homes for higher income groups, who aspire to move to larger properties. There are less than 0.5% of houses within Council Tax band GH within the city.

"The SHMA indicates that of the 6,280 households earning a minimum of £950 per week, 43.8% would like to move to a larger house, with 31.3% expressing an interest in moving in the next five years and 90.8% identifying Sunderland as their first preference for a home.

"However, their aspirations differ from their expectations, because the housing options the city’s higher income groups aspire to are not being delivered, with a notable lack of executive homes being developed. There is also a need for graduate focused accommodation with 3,000 students graduating each year from the University of Sunderland; particularly for those wishing to start small businesses from home."

The report also acknowledges the need of ensuring the right housing plan is in place to deal with an increasingly older population.

It adds: "The number of older persons aged 65+ in Sunderland is projected to increase by 42% from 2015 to 2039. This presents a strategic challenge for the city.

"It is important that plans are put in place, based on sound evidence of need. Working with partners and providers is vital to ensure increased housing choices are available to support the increasing group of older persons with a variety of housing needs. Currently there is a real shortage of bungalows."

Equally, civic leaders see a need to ensure Sunderland has enough affordable homes.

The report says: "There continues to be an increasing demand for affordable housing units particularly with the current economic situation and the impact of welfare reform. The SHMA identifies an imbalance of 615 affordable units per annum.

"Planning policy requires 10% affordable housing from all residential developments of 15 units or more, through Section 106s. Based on annual housing requirements this is Iikely to secure approximately 70-80 affordable units per annum. Additionally the affordable housing sector is currently experiencing a period of rapid change as a consequence of the recession, development viability and a number of recent changes in government policy.

"This has created a climate of uncertainty and heightened risk and consequently less affordable housing is being delivered by Registered Providers and/or through S106s. The council and its partners will have to be creative and flexible in securing the levels of affordable housing that the city needs for the future and consider many forms of affordable housing within the context of emerging Government policy, including affordable home ownership."

Other key data in the report reveals there are 5,792 students living in Sunderland, including 3,136 living in the private rented sector.

Sunderland also had 2,756 properties - both private and social - stood empty for over six months.

In Sunderland, the private rented sector accounts for 12% of housing and the report adds: "The private rented properties within Sunderland are presently at the lower priced end of the market or aimed at students. Moreover, rents are reducing due to welfare reform and increased competition in the student sector.

"There is a gap in the market for good quality privately rented accommodation for professionals and working families and those attracted to Sunderland by employment opportunities.

"There is an opportunity for private renting to play a major role in underpinning the growth of employment, for example the jobs to be created by the International Advanced Manufacturing Park."

The report also says that 68% of Gentoo tenants are on benefits and 375 Gentoo households are struggling to pay their rent.

The report also says Sunderland is home to three Travelling Show person yards, accommodating 100 permanent plots for the city’s Travelling Show people families.

It adds: "The South Tyneside and Sunderland Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (2014) identifies a need for a further 34 plots in the city by 2036 with a particular demand for further plots in Houghton-le-Spring, Hetton-le-Hole and Washington. The council is currently updating this assessment.

"The Assessment also identifies that there are no Gypsy and Travellers residing permanently in caravans in the city and there are no future requirements for pitches. The council is updating this assessment.

"However there is a history of unauthorised camping by Gypsy and Traveller communities; this suggests that the city does have a clear need for a Gypsy and Traveller stopover site."

Coun Miller said: "The council has completed a major and extensive study of Sunderland’s housing situation.

"There are more than 120,000 households in our city and it’s a subject and issue that affects everybody and everybody has a view on.

"This strategy is about setting out a clear direction on housing for the next five years.

"With a strategy there can be clearer direction so that everyone, from residents to landlords, to developers and businesses, is clear what our city has and what it needs.

"Updating our strategy brings us into line with others and links into regional and national issues and policies on housing.

"Subject to the Cabinet meeting, we’ll be looking at consultation from May to June this year."

The draft outlines how house building is increasing in the city as between 2014-2016 1,593 new houses were built, compared to 765 in the previous two years.

Other key achievements include how:
• The city’s private housing stock has improved with 84 per cent of houses meeting the decent homes standard in 2014 compared to 77 per cent in 2009
• The city is ranked in the top 5 per cent of local authorities for the quality of the living environment
• In 2015-2016, 895 homes were completed; the highest number of housing completions in Tyne and Wear.

Once a final draft has been agreed, the strategy will formally be approved as council policy.