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Council commits to radical new homebuilding programme

A decision made today by Waltham Forest Council’s Cabinet will herald the start of a brand new wave of Council homebuilding in the borough, the likes of which has not been seen for generations.

The Council has committed to expand the scale of its housing programme to build hundreds more homes every year, addressing the fact that housing supply in the borough is falling woefully behind demand.

Phase one of the programme will see 209 homes built on sites around the borough including properties on the Marlowe Road and Montague Road estates, two garage site redevelopments and a development on Wood Street, amongst others. Phase two will see a further 226 homes built between 2015 and 2018, with funding for these homes already secured and sites identified.

Councillor Khevyn Limbajee, Cabinet Member for Housing, said, “We are significantly expanding the scope of our ambitions in order to see more homes built in the borough. We are doing this by securing substantial funds through grants and borrowing and by changing our remit to be able to build a significant number of Council homes on Council owned land.

“We already work very closely with Housing Associations, developers and others to ensure the right kinds of new homes are built in Waltham Forest, but we recognised that the scale of development was simply not keeping pace.”

Waltham Forest has become one of capital’s most sought after areas with house prices rising more steeply here than anywhere else in London. There are now over 16,000 households on the Council’s housing register waiting for affordable homes, many in temporary accommodation paid for by the Council.

The Council will spend an estimated £19m on temporary accommodation in this financial year, so it needs to take advantage of all opportunities to increase the supply of affordable housing in the borough, not only to meet the needs of homeless households, but to also provide affordable rent and low cost home ownership opportunities to retain existing residents and attract new economically active households to the borough.

“One of the key issues for us was to build homes that we can retain control over and ensure go to those in need,” said Cllr Limbajee. “Other Councils have embarked on private sector house building programmes where the aim is to raise revenue in addition to increasing housing stock. Our scheme is much more focused on finding homes for our residents who are currently struggling to find a place to live.”

Earlier this year the Council was successful in bidding for a £9.7m grant from the Greater London Authority and a £7m loan facility from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The Council also took advantage of new borrowing powers that enable councils to build more affordable homes by bidding for a share of a £300m pot of extra borrowing capacity from the DCLG.

The £9.7m grant will support the construction of 387 new council homes, while the £7m additional borrowing will be used in conjunction with £3m of retained Right to Buy receipts, to build 48 new homes on council garage sites.

“At the same time as pushing on with using the funding and borrowing arrangements to build these hundreds of new homes, we have also now agreed to prepare proposals for a Special Purpose Vehicle that will help us expand the scale of the housing new build programme still further,” said Cllr Limbajee.

Central Government places controls on the amount of money Councils are permitted to use for house building and improving council housing. The Special Purpose Vehicle would allow the Council to build more homes and retain greater control over the properties built by constructing them on land that it owns.

Today’s Cabinet meeting gave approval for financial and legal advice to be sought in order to work up the Special Purpose Vehicle proposals. These will then be presented to a future Cabinet meeting in order to be taken forward.


To read the agenda and background to today’s decision click on the following link:

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