Council property acquisitions could fund housing regeneration

Published Wednesday, 26th June 2019

House in hands

Councillors have agreed to spend £4.3m buying private properties for use as council housing, and create a revolving investment fund to deliver a pipeline of housing regeneration projects for Southend.

These plans were two of four recommendations made in the housing update report presented to cabinet on Tuesday 25 June.

The pipeline of regeneration projects will include new build housing, potential acquisitions and leasing opportunities, such as a private sector leasing scheme along with identifying potential estate refurbishment sites, and considering the use of existing council-owned buildings and sites.

The plan is to use profit from early developments and acquisitions to fund future projects as part of a revolving investment fund. It is hoped the regeneration project will increase the pace of delivery of council homes, whilst also ensuring the best use of our limited land and assets.

The report also recommended to:

  • continue with the acquisitions programme for council housing as agreed in the council’s Housing, Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Strategy
  • create a capital budget of £4.3M within the Housing Revenue Account capital programme for 2019/20 to pay for the acquisitions programme. This will be made up of 30% funds from retained Right to Buy Capital receipts and 70% from HRA Capital Investment Reserve
  • that the council officer responsible for property acquisitions be allowed to sign off property values of £500,000, an increase from £250,000

The Right-to-Buy receipts are time sensitive and need to be spent by the end of 2019/20 to avoid the need to return them to HM Treasury, together with punitive interest payments (at 4% above base rate) that would be required.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council with a responsibility for housing, said: “Housing is a key priority for this joint administration and we will support projects and schemes that increase the amount of council housing available, reduces the number of people on our council housing waiting list and rebalances the housing market in Southend-on-Sea to make it more affordable to everyone.

“The need for social and affordable housing is greater than ever and while good work has been done to address it, with people on the council housing list recently moving into brand new homes on Rochford Road, for example, we need to go further, and I am delighted that £4.3m will be used to purchase properties on the private market to use for council housing.

“Revolving investments funds are used by other local authorities to fund housing and regeneration programmes and once we have a more detailed framework we will see if it can work for Southend too. Being pro-active and planned means we are more able to respond positively and take advantage of the opportunities presented to us as the market changes.”

The regeneration framework and timeline will be prepared for September’s cabinet meeting.