Building homes that people need: housing company gets Council go-ahead
Shropshire Councillors have unanimously agreed to progress with the creation of a company to meet housing need and generate income, at a meeting of Full Council yesterday (Thursday 28 February 2019).
Councillors across all parties received the ‘addressing unmet housing need’ report positively and, after some discussion about housing need in different parts of the county, agreed to approve the business case and the delegations necessary to establish a council wholly-owned local housing company.
Work will now get underway to set the company up so that work can begin to create the homes that people need, want and can afford.
As outlined in the report, two initial council-owned sites have been identified for development in Monkmoor, Shrewsbury and Ifton Heath, Oswestry. Subject to planning approval, work could begin onsite to build the proposed 52 homes as early as August 2019. A further five sites in the south of the county have also been put forward for future consideration.
All of the homes will be built according to need, including homes specifically designed for older people, preventing the need for unnecessary and unwanted residential accommodation; housing for key workers and first time buyers, and former looked-after young people, who just need a little help getting started.
As well as providing homes, the company will also operate commercially to support the delivery of homes that would otherwise not be viable, such as small developments in rural areas, as well as assist the council to be more financially self-sufficient. It’s because of this wish to operate for a commercial return that a separate company is needed.
Robert Macey, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for planning and housing development, said:
“Today’s decision by Council unlocks another way for us to directly address the challenge of unmet housing need that exists in Shropshire. Despite strong years of housing delivery by existing developers the challenges remain.
“A housing waiting list of over 5,000 individuals and families, coupled with an ageing population who want to live independently for longer and people wanting to live closer to where they work, point towards just some of the needs we are trying to meet.
“It is important that we bring forward more affordable houses to sustain our local towns and villages. We have land and it makes sense that we use this initially to build high-quality homes that people want, need and can afford. It will also help us to shape places and use any income to build even more homes and deliver essential services. We intend to work closely with Shropshire-based businesses and partners to help boost the local economy.”
The report followed two previous ones which were discussed at Cabinet and Council in November and December 2018. The first outlined the reasons for the creation of a local housing company, namely to use council-owned land and purchased land and property to develop housing and wider development where needed. The second sought approval to progress with plans to create the company itself.