What the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy would look like (Image: Sunderland City Council).What the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy would look like (Image: Sunderland City Council).

Earlier this week, Sunderland City Council cabinet received a progress report on proposals for the Academy for Housing Innovation and Building Literacy (HICSA) in the city’s Sheepfolds neighborhood.

The project aims to train local people to create innovative factory-built new homes, the first of which will be built as part of a new neighborhood in Riverside Sunderland.

Council leaders believe the plans are in line with the government’s upgrading agenda – creating more economic opportunities for people and businesses by allowing the region to build “its own” homes.

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They also hope that HICSA, which will cost around £ 14 million to build, will receive funding through the government’s Build Back Better and Leveling Up programs.

When funding is secured, the Academy will enable Sunderland to ensure that the local people are at the forefront of building the homes of the future.

Councilor Graeme Miller, chairwoman of Sunderland City Council, briefed cabinet members on the project at a meeting on Tuesday, June 15.

“The UK has not built enough houses for decades, which has led to rising housing costs,” he said.

“The government has set itself the ambitious goal of building 300,000 homes annually by the mid-2020s, but constraints such as the lack of skilled labor mean it cannot achieve this goal using traditional construction methods alone.

“In order to achieve this goal, a significant proportion of the apartments must therefore be built in a modern style.

“The shortage of skilled workers is one of the main barriers to accelerating housing delivery in the UK and it is crucial that skills provision increase and housing become an attractive career choice for young people.

“To address these shortcomings and position the city at the forefront of housing innovation, ensure local skills match industry needs and employment opportunities are maximized, the council has worked with Sunderland College and the Department of Building Innovation and Education Proposals designed to build an industry leading education and skills academy.

“This will encourage the use of modern construction methods in the provision of high quality new housing, incorporate low carbon and renewable energies and digital technologies, and accelerate carbon reduction by retrofitting the city’s existing housing stock.

“HICSA will change the way new homes are designed and built, and will make a vital contribution to Sunderland’s zero-carbon and smart city goals.”

According to cabinet papers, HICSA would be a “critical science-industry link that Sunderland would establish as a regional and national center for housing innovation, research and development.”

It also aims to “help attract and retain local talent and provide greater opportunities for young people from disadvantaged communities, and [to] support the growth of Sunderland College as an economic and technical center of excellence. “

At this week’s cabinet meeting, Council Presidents agreed to several recommendations, including “taking all necessary steps” to ensure delivery until a construction contract is awarded.

Other recommendations, subject to funding, included signing a lease with Sunderland College as the proposed tenant for the long-term “hands-on” rental of HICSA.

According to a report drawn up for the Cabinet, HICSA is included in the Council’s approved capital program at a cost of £ 10.95 million, of which the Council is expected to contribute £ 5.475 million.

However, the current estimated cost is £ 14.2 million, reflecting the “expansion of the building’s footprint and related work to accommodate additional classrooms and expand training facilities.”

The proposed contribution from Sunderland City Council remains unchanged at £ 5.475m, with the remaining £ 8.725m requested from outside sources including the Government’s Leveling Up Fund.

The Cabinet report adds that third-party funding is “critical” to the implementation of the project, although Council officials “will hopefully stay to receive the necessary grant”.

Councilor Linda Williams, Vibrant City Cabinet Member, welcomed the “fabulous proposal.”

She added, “I am so excited that it is moving forward and let’s hope we can bring it to fruition and reinvigorate our local communities to take on these jobs.

“It’s an investment in housing and an investment in our young people and it’s great.”

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