Councils bid to ease housing challenge

LOCAL authorities are employing novel ways trying to ease housing problems.

First time buyers are set to be given help to get on the property ladder, thanks to an East Sussex County Council-backed mortgage scheme.

The County Council's cabinet has agreed that work should start on establishing a countywide Local Authority Mortgage Scheme across East Sussex.

The cabinet has also proposed that £10 million be earmarked towards launching the scheme.

Subject to full council approval, East Sussex County Council will now look for partnerships with district and borough councils who will contribute extra funding.

This will allow a successful scheme already run by Hastings Borough Council to be available on a similar basis in all areas of the county.

Under the terms of the scheme, first time buyers will only need a 5% deposit to buy their first home, with local councils guaranteeing a further 20%.

It means a first time buyer will be able to get a 95% mortgage on the same terms as a 75% mortgage from a leading high street mortgage lender.

The bank or building society lending the money will still apply their normal lending criteria to ensure borrowers can afford repayments.

Prospective buyers will still need to be able to afford their mortgage repayments, but will not need to save the large deposit lenders now ask for.

East Sussex County Council is now working with Sector Treasury Services to agree a partner lender or lenders and work through the legal process with them.

Subject to full council approval, the scheme is expected to launch in the summer.

Council deputy leader Councillor Keith Glazier said high house prices and caution over lending from banks and building societies meant many potential first time buyers cannot save a sufficient deposit, even though they could afford mortgage payments on a typical first home.

"This scheme is designed to bridge that gap.

"Together we can help to free up the supply of affordable housing which means more people will be able to take the step of buying their first home.

"That will help to stimulate the local housing market and ultimately boost the local economy."

Meanwhile, work to bring empty homes back into use across County Durham is being highlighted at a meeting.

A review by Durham County Council's Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee into work to address the problem and increase access to affordable housing will be presented to the authority's Cabinet on Wednesday (13 March).

The review highlights the need to make better use of private sector housing at a time when fewer houses are being built and the gap between wages and house prices is widening.

It looks at a number of schemes being delivered by the council in partnership with both Registered Social Landlords and private housing providers and notes the success in improving housing standards of schemes in the priority regeneration areas of Craghead, West Chilton and Easington Colliery.

The report also highlights the difficulty of having to step-up efforts to deal with empty homes while at the same time dealing with a reduction in resources.

Cllr John Moran, Chairman of the Economy and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: "Access to a decent, affordable home is an essential part of everyday life that contributes to our health and wellbeing.

"While this report highlights some successes delivered with our housing partners in the public and private sector, it also makes important recommendations as to what more we could be doing.

"As well as supporting more empty homes renewal schemes, it highlights the need for us to work more closely with housing providers and explore alternative sources of funding."


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