Wealden Council could set up housing development company

Update on Wednesday, September 7, at 3.30pm: Wealden Council has agreed in principle to set up its own housing development company.wealden-district-council-un

The company’s aims would be to provide accommodation “not being provided by the market”, such as flats, bungalows, smaller unit accommodation for younger and older people and a more affordable provision for retirement housing.

The council would also want the company to make a profit, by delivering housing for market rent or market sale, to provide a financial return to the council as the owner of the company.

The groups the council would particularly like to target are Generation Rent, younger people in Wealden priced out of the market, and Generation Stuck, older people keen to move to smaller, more suitable, accommodation when there are few smaller units available close to their existing networks.

A report to the council’s cabinet today (Wednesday, September 7) said the company could offer:

  • Housing for outright sale
  • Starter homes
  • Rent to buy
  • Shared ownership
  • Market rent
  • Commercial regeneration opportunities

The report says the properties would be developed on existing council-owned land but, as the council has little land in its portfolio the intention is also to purchase land from the market.

The company may also buy existing properties on the open market or “off-plan”. Properties would be for sale and some could be privately rented out to purchasers not yet in a position to buy.

“These homes will be let out at market rents and will meet a different need not currently being effectively met by the market or through the council’s housing stock,” says the report.

“The company may also consider opportunities to regenerate existing properties including commercial units where we could create mixed use sites of residential and commercial properties.”

The report says the company would be funded by a mix of equity, invested by the council, and debt, borrowed either from the council or private sector lenders.

Cabinet today (September 7) approved the following recommendations:

  • Agree in principle the establishment of a wholly-owned local authority housing company,
  • Explore the development of a housing company further by wider discussion with members as detailed in the report
  • Request that the director of environment and community services draft necessary protocols, articles of association, agreements and plans to establish the company, and
  • Agree that a final report be produced for cabinet in October 2016 to report back on work undertaken to explore the company further and to finalise the actions needed to set up the housing company.

The establishment of a ‘housing and regeneration company’ is being considered both to “enable residents to have a good quality of life by providing a variety of good quality accommodation” and to increase council-generated income for greater financial independence.

See the full report to cabinet here.

• This story first appeared on Wednesday, September 7, at 6am. The story has been updated with the Wealden cabinet decision.

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