Potential delivery options for Better Homes

Monday, 14 December 2020

The next milestone in our Better Homes project to provide much needed quality housing that is affordable for local people will be reached tomorrow when our Cabinet will be asked to agree potential models of delivery to develop into business cases.

Work on the project to date, which has included identifying a representative sample of eight council owned sites for development, assessing local affordable housing need, a market engagement exercise with Registered Providers of Social Housing and private developers, and options appraisals to determine how best to achieve our aspiration of a quality home for all, has led to the project team recommending further work is carried out on two potential delivery models - a development agreement and an ‘enabling and development’ joint venture.

Both options would require us to join forces with a partner. Feedback from the market engagement exercise showed that there is significant appetite and enthusiasm amongst the housing development market to work in partnership with us to deliver the quality homes that the borough’s communities need.

In reaching its recommendations, the project team considered a number of options used in the UK for building new homes and assessed each option for practical deliverability, design, quality and environmental standards, the quantity of homes that could be achieved, how to maximise social value and how to ensure financial sustainability.

Based on public responses to our Building a Better Borough consultation and consultation with cross party councillors on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, the consensus is to provide the highest possible quality of homes, practical deliverability and for us to have influence over developments. 

If Cabinet agrees to the recommendations within the report at its meeting on Tuesday 15 December, the project team will develop detailed business cases for the two preferred delivery models during the coming months.

We see the Better Homes project as critical to addressing the borough’s shortage of quality housing for local people, which is also affordable.

Approximately 37% of jobs in the borough are paid below the Real Living Wage and around 41% of employed clients of the local Citizens’ Advice claim in-work benefits. This has resulted in 2,000 households on the waiting list for social rented housing and the average cost of a home valued at around seven to nine times the average salary of £27,000.

Demand for affordable homes is therefore high and we estimate that around 220 are needed per year. With the borough’s ageing population, there is also a need for 4,000 specialist and adaptable homes.
  
All this cannot be met solely through current planning policy, which is why developing alternative delivery models is so important.

Cllr Carl Maw, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities and Housing, said:

"This is a hugely important and ambitious project for the future of the borough. I am pleased to see it is moving at pace and despite all the complexities it involves, the project team has made excellent progress to date in narrowing down possible delivery options.

"The role of Cabinet will be to look at the background to the recommendations and agree whether they are most likely to achieve our ambition for a quality home for all. Our decision will ensure the project team will be able to progress, with confidence, to the next stage of work required to keep the project moving forward." 

The Better Homes project is also linked to the council’s economic development plans for the borough, including stimulating recovery following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Liz Colling, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Growth, said:

"This year has been incredibly challenging for many people in our borough, which has further exposed the low wage parts of our economy and the shortage of quality housing that people can afford.

"Alongside our commitment to provide better homes, we are continuing with our plans to stimulate and grow the economy by supporting investment in new, sustainable industries that will provide better paid jobs, working with our partners to promote improvements in education and training, and encouraging employers to pay the UK Living Wage."