Headlines: March 26th, 2003

A framework of measures to promote sustainable communities has been announced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescot. Funding in total will amount to 22 billion pounds. The framework brings together a number of measures to tackle the housing provision mis-match between the South-East and parts of the North and the Midlands and to provide affordable houses for key workers such as nurses, teachers and police.For areas of low housing demand in the older urban areas, such as the North West, a housing market renewal fund will allow local councils to operate homeswap schemes. The council will buy a rundown property and the homeowner will be re-housed in a refurbished house in a nearby street. The existing mortgage will be carried to the new property.

There will also be funding to support development in the South East which has a fast growing economy. Private sector developers will undertake most of the development, but there will be funds for other facilities such as schools and health centres.

Key workers in London and the South East are being priced out of their communities with rising house prices. To meet their needs more funds are being made available for the starter home initiative which helps key workers to buy a home from the open market. They get a percentage of the purchase price as a loan, up to a maximum of 35,000 pounds, leaving them to fund thebalance through a normal mortgage. They only need to pay back the loan, including any growth in its value, when they eventually sell the property.

The framework will be implemented by the Government Offices for the Regions who will work with local councils, developers and house builders.