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Council could scoop housing award

South Tyneside Council has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for its work to address housing problems in the Borough.

It has reached the final of the Local Government Chronicle awards in the 'Housing Initiative' category.

Housing Initiative is a new award for local authorities that have done the most to 'devise imaginative solutions' to ease housing problems, be they in social housing, the private rental sector or in the purchase of homes.

In 2013 the Council helped establish a new not-for-profit company, South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust Ltd, to deliver desperately-needed affordable homes.

In its first year, the Housing Ventures Trust purchased and let 28 new properties, started on site building 88 homes, contracted with private sector partners to build 130 homes and secured funding for a further 67.

Councillor Allan West, South Tyneside Council's Lead Member for Housing and Transport, said: "We're delighted to have been shortlisted for this award.

"Last year there were over 6,200 applications to the housing register chasing 1,600 homes in the Borough.

"It is a huge challenge to build the affordable homes we need and the establishment of the Ventures Trust has been a great leap forward in meeting that demand.

"The company is working closely with the Council to fulfil its priorities, including buying empty properties in strategic locations and building homes that meet the demands of an ageing population. On top of this the company is bringing in investment and creating local jobs."

As an independent company, the Trust is able to access alternative sources of funding, not available to the council, to build new housing. It has now become a Registered Provider of Social Housing with the Homes and Communities Agency.

Company Secretary Brian Scott said: "In our first year, we've already made huge progress and we are well on track to realising our vision of delivering 400 new homes in our first five years.

"The company has invested over £3m in the Borough, with an additional £9m already committed and firm plans in place to invest a further £20m by March 2016."

The awards will be judged at the final which will be held in London in March.

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