Sunderland City Council has announced its housing strategy for the coming five years – a vision that includes both affordable and luxury homes.

The council’s cabinet will meet on Wednesday to discuss the plan, which is put forward in a report entitled A Housing Strategy for Sunderland 2017-22.

The plan will then be subject to public consultation over the next few months.

Sunderland City Council’s blueprint contains the following arguments:

  • More executive homes are needed to stop higher income earners leaving Sunderland.
  • More affordable homes are needed, especially in the light of the current economic climate and the ongoing impact of austerity.
  • There must be a focus on meeting the housing needs of older people. The proportion of Sunderland residents aged over 65 is set to increase by 42% by 2039.
  • There are more than 2,000 homes in Sunderland currently standing empty. These should be brought back into use.
  • Neighbourhoods with declining housing stock and anti-social behaviour issues – such as Hendon, Hetton Downs, Millfield, Pallion and Eden Vale – should be regenerated.
  • The city’s most vulnerable residents should be looked after. In 2015/16, 262 people presented themselves as homeless after suffering domestic abuse.
  • Some homes need to be made healthier. 1,957 privately rented Sunderland homes have unacceptable levels of cold and damp.
  • Efforts should be made to encourage graduates from the University of Sunderland to stay in the city.
  • There may be a need for a Gypsy and Traveller stopover site and for extra plots on the city’s sites for Travelling Show People

The city is, however, faced with the problem that it does not currently have the land to provide all the homes Sunderland is going to need.

The report states, “Sunderland does not have sufficient available land, in the right places, to build the homes the city needs.”

“As such, it will be necessary to explore different options 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 greenbelt land.”

The report says that potential sites have been found for 15,581 housing units over the next fifteen years, with 4,036 in the Coalfields, 7,025 in South Sunderland, 2,038 in Central Sunderland, 1,499 in North Sunderland and 983 in Washington.

A Housing Strategy for Sunderland 2017-22 also points out 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 brackets (A and B) which indicates a need to diversify the existing housing stock.”

Sunderland City Council Reveals New Housing Strategy
Most Sunderland housing stock is in lower council tax bands (photo by Walt Jabsco)

“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 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.”

“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 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 concludes, “This strategy is about setting out a clear direction on housing for the next five years.”

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

(Featured image by Dave Webster)

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