A pilot scheme in County Durham is set to give more people the chance to benefit from the security and affordability of a housing association home.
One of the north east’s largest social landlords is launching a trial that could ultimately help dozens into stable, low cost homes across the region. County Durham Housing Group is piloting shared tenancies in its homes for the first time, providing an alternative to shared houses in the private rented sector.
The first homes are set to be offered through the scheme, the first of its type in County Durham, will be available this autumn. Both tenants will have equal standing in the tenancy.
The move will make it possible to share a typical two-bedroom flat, with an assured tenancy, with rent from under £37 per week – that’s £63 per week when water, electricity and council tax are included. Tenants will also benefit from a range of support including help with furniture, access to employability guidance or training and budgeting advice, plus access to a 24-hour emergency repairs service.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “We’ve all heard stories of people living in shared homes who have been forced to move with little or no notice. This pilot is intended to provide an alternative to potentially insecure private rent in County Durham.
“We think now is the right time to test shared tenancies because our research shows that there is a strong demand for affordable and secure shared homes in the area. If the pilot is successful we’ll look to expand it to other areas and in other types of property where we can.”
The pilot is not restricted to people who have already identified a prospective housemate. Applications will be accepted from pairs and individuals, with County Durham Housing Group looking to match suitable housemates where needed.
Registrations of interest in the pilot scheme are open now. More information is available from County Durham Housing Group on 0300 1311 999 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the north east’s largest housing associations is launching a single phone number for all enquiries.
From Tuesday, 11 September all callers to County Durham Housing Group and its landlords will be able to get in touch by phoning 0300 1311 999.
The group, which includes Dale & Valley Homes, Durham City Homes and East Durham Homes, is advising people to come through their new direct line whether it’s a query about rent, repairs or anything else to do with their home.
Existing numbers for each of the individual landlords will continue to divert to contact centres for six months while customers get used to the change.
County Durham Housing Group Head of Housing Operations, Simon Bartlett, said: “Bringing all three landlords into one group has allowed us to make a huge variety of efficiencies and offer a consistent service to all of our customers. Moving to a single phone number is the latest opportunity to make it easier for all of our residents, whether they live in Wheatley Hill or Wearhead.
“From now on there’ll be just one easy to remember phone number no matter what your query. Directing all enquiries through one phone number will help us manage calls more efficiently, and answer phones more quickly, for all of our customers.”
Calls to the new 0300 1311 999 telephone number will be charged at the same rate as standard landline calls.
Residents in County Durham are being urged to join their council’s fight against fraud with the launch of a new campaign.
Each year, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of pounds are taken unlawfully from Durham County Council through fraud. This includes council tax and tenancy fraud, as well as false claims for direct payments for social care and support, insurance and blue badges for disabled parking.
Now the council is encouraging anyone who knows of someone committing such fraud, to report it.
Paul Bradley, the council’s chief internal auditor and corporate fraud manager, said: “Fraud steals money away from vital frontline services.
“Fighting this crime helps us not only protect these services but ensure taxpayers' hard-earned money is not wasted. But we can’t do this alone, so we are asking anyone who is aware of it or has concerns to let us know.
“We investigate all reports we receive and will not hesitate to prosecute offenders to ensure we protect the public purse.”
Over the last three years the council has recovered or intercepted more than £3million pounds from fraudulent activity.
As well as investigating reports from the public, the council carries out regional and national data matching, as well as working closely with neighbouring local authorities, police and law enforcement agencies.
To report fraud:
Text: 07797 870 192, start your message with the word ‘fraud’
Call 03000 266 745
Help, advice and support is readily for anyone who believes that they may have been the victim of a loan shark
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) have released an impactful new video, which aims to bring awareness to the issue of how parents are affected by loan sharks. The short dramatic video, shows the devastating effect of illegal money lending, and is part of a larger campaign to raise awareness of the rights of victims, and the help available to them.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) is the government body behind Stop Loan Sharks. The team was set up in 2004 to investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders while protecting those who have borrowed money from a loan shark.
Research from 2017 Witness Statistics Report shows that 50% of victims supported by the IMLT were parents with an average of two children per family, and worryingly, 43% of victims went without food, fuel or missed rent or mortgage payments in order to repay the loan shark.
The impact of illegal money lending is immense, with 32% of victims asked said that they had considered committing suicide and 25% of those with suicidal thoughts said it was due to their involvement with a loan shark.
Tony Quigley, head of service for the Illegal Money Lending Team added; “There are many misconceptions surrounding illegal money lending, in particular the ‘sort’ of people targeted and exploited by loan sharks. We hope this new video will help to dispel some of those myths and encourage anyone affected by illegal money lending to get in touch, so we can help.
“We have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 329 years’ worth of custodial sentences. We have written off £73.7 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 28,000 people.
“The message is clear; you are not in trouble if you have borrowed cash or have been paying back a loan from an illegal money lender, the loan shark is. They are the people committing a crime, not you.”
To see the video and download the stop loan sharks free education resources, visit www.stoploansharks.co.uk
To report a loan shark call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 or text a report to 078600 22116.
Construction of four new bungalows specifically designed to be adaptable for wheelchair users has begun in the heart of St Helens Auckland.
The two-bedroom bungalows are being built for County Durham Housing Group on a vacant site in Davis Avenue and are due for completion by summer 2018. All four homes will be available for affordable rent.
Featuring the latest standards in heating and insulation, the bungalows will provide substantial savings for tenants; particularly when compared to older, private rented properties.
The new homes are part of a £30m project bringing additional affordable homes to County Durham. A total of 300 new homes will be created on 17 sites for County Durham Housing Group by 2020. The investment is also creating hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships, supporting the local economy.
County Durham Housing Group Development Manager, Tom Winter, said: "This may seem like a small development, but these new homes are allowing us to meet a very specific demand for accessible and affordable homes in the St Helens area.
"The bungalows are part of our ongoing plans to build the right homes in the right places to support communities and improve lives."
Construction work on the new homes in Davis Avenue is being carried out by long-established Bishop Auckland based firm T Manners & Sons. Wayne Harris, Contracts Manager at T Manners, said, “I started as an apprentice joiner with T Manners in the 1980’s and worked on many similar projects building affordable homes for local people. It’s great to be involved again in such a worthwhile development. I hope we can continue to work with County Durham Housing Group, providing more affordable homes in the area.”