‘Funds pullout is devastating’

Twelfth Street in Horden.
Twelfth Street in Horden.

A HOUSING association has withdrawn millions of pounds of funding for regeneration of run-down homes in a move that opponents say will have a devastating impact.

Easington MP Grahame Morris is calling on a Government minister to step in after Accent, which owns and manages homes in Blackhall and Horden, said they will not be investing millions of pounds to update 329 homes in the two villages.

Accent is seeking a transfer of the homes to another housing association after it made the decision to suspend its major improvements programme, which has already seen 220 homes improved at a cost of £8.2m

But Durham County Councillor for Horden, Paul Stradling raised concerns that this will leave tenants high and dry.

Coun Stradling, who was due to meet with Accent’s regional director, said: “I think this decision is purely commercial to the detriment of the community and the village in general that they have allowed this decision to put people’s housing prospects in jeopardy. What hasn’t been sorted out is who’s going to take on that responsibility.”

He said if the houses went onto the open market, this would increase the risk of absentee landlords taking them over.

Mr Morris said he has spoken to Accent’s chief executive and is working with Durham County Council to see if another housing association can step in.

He has also asked the new Housing Minister Chris Hopkins MP for a meeting over the possible move.

He said: “The worst possible outcome for these already hard pressed communities would be for these properties to come onto the market and be snapped up by absentee private landlords.”

Sarah Robson, head of economic development and housing at Durham County Council, will be chairing a project team with Accent, which the Homes and Communities Agency have agreed to join.

A spokeswoman for Accent confirmed: “Sadly, we have had to make the difficult decision to suspend this programme.”

The spokesman blamed the cost of improvements increasing, and the impact of welfare benefits and the bedroom tax causing demand to fall.

She said: “Our priority is to find a social landlord who can invest in the remaining 329 homes. This transfer will be subject to the approval of our regulator the Homes & Communities Agency.”

She added: “This is not a process that we will rush as we are acutely aware that we have over 270 households impacted by this decision.”

Accent will remain the landlord of its bungalows in Horden and its homes in Easington Colliery.