Wealden District Council has approved a 30 year Business Plan which will invest £15 million every five years in new affordable homes between 2024 and 2048.
Through Phase One of its New Build Programme, Wealden built 76 new council homes. Phase Two, currently underway, will see a further 87 new council homes built.
Councillor Graham Wells, Cabinet member for Housing, said:
Between 2018 – 2023, we will be spending £20 million on new Council homes. From 2024 until 2048 we are planning to invest a further £75 million on social housing. This is to help ensure Wealden is a place where everyone can afford to live.
Borrowing for this investment is paid for from the returns we get from rents from the 3,000 properties we own. This programme is entirely self-financing through our Housing Revenue Account, and involves no contribution from council tax.
Over the 30 year period, rental income from our housing account will also allow for £4.5 million a year to be spent on maintaining our existing housing stock. We would like to invest more in new social housing for Wealden but our borrowing plans have to stay within a government-imposed debt cap. There is a possibility we can bid for an increased borrowing allowance and we will be exploring opportunities to do this.
In the meantime we have to be wary of a number of policy uncertainties. These include the possibility of having to pay a levy to central government based on the number of high value council houses that remain in our ownership.
National policy has also meant council tenants have been seeing their rents reduced by 1% each year until 2019/20. The number of households using emergency and temporary accommodation has risen in recent years. It is set to rise further as the Council ensures it meets obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. Acquiring further accommodation to ensure this demand can be met will be a priority over the next few years.
As well as increasing the supply of housing and maintaining existing stock, the 30 year plan aims to make the best use of the Council’s assets and improve estates and neighbourhoods. Tenant involvement is key to this. It includes a Financial Inclusion Strategy to help tenants and leaseholders:
- Access digital services
- Access financial services and financial capability
- Develop their skills including employment skills
The demand for affordable housing continues to outstrip supply within the District. In December 2017, there were 918 households registered for affordable housing. Of the 918 housing applications, 248 were existing social tenants looking to move and the remaining 670 were first-time applicants.
Following changes in legislation, New Build council homes are let at affordable rents. These are higher than social rents but must be below 80% market rents.
Click to download a copy of Wealden’s Housing Revenue Account Business Plan 2018-2038.