Communities urged to tap “windfall” fund for affordable home schemes

The council car park at Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale.

By Betsy Everett

A meeting to raise awareness of a self-help housing scheme funded by a half-million-pound “windfall” of government money will be held in Leyburn on July 21.

A pilot scheme in Hudswell is already underway, building three affordable homes for rent, and two more small-scale projects are planned for Hawes and Arkengarthdale.

A meeting of the the upper dales area partnership heard this week that community-led housing accounted for only around one per cent of current housing stock nationally, and that in North Yorkshire so far there were very few schemes.
The story continues after the adverts. . .

However in December last year the government had announced a £60 million funding pot – the Community Housing Fund – to support areas most affected by second home ownership. Of this, £6.2 million had been allocated to North Yorkshire, of which Richmondshire had been given £495,000 for 2016/17. There may be more funding available in 2017/18, Sarah Hall, housing strategy manager for North Yorkshire and the East Riding, told members.

Callum McKeon, Richmondshire district council corporate director, said an online hub to provide help and support for local communities interested in starting a scheme was being set up, and the meeting in Leyburn, with experts and advisers on hand, would help spread the word.

“This is a windfall pot of money from the government, and it is really rare that this happens. We need to get this money spent to help provide affordable homes and it is incumbent on all of us to get this off the ground,” he said.

The money could be used for both capital and revenue support, and groups can ask for financial support. In Hudswell, he said, the district council had funded a £40,000 shortfall.

UDAP chairman, John Blackie, upper dales representative on the county council and chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside parish council, said a project worker for Hawes, funded by the scheme, would be appointed in September. Arkengarthdale parish council were looking to build four houses in a car park for affordable rent, and there were plans for another six or seven on a site earmarked in Hawes.

“I am concerned about the right-to-buy scheme which sells off high-value council houses, and is now to be extended to housing association properties. I am so worried about the loss of young families to the dales and affordable housing for rent is an urgent need,” he said.

Ms Hall told the meeting that the community-led schemes were generally for developments of between one and 25 homes, set up and run by local people and would require “considerable voluntary effort.” The idea was to provide affordable homes, mainly to rent, and offering support and technical help to local groups.