Tuesday, November 26, 2013

News: Council's £30m plan to boost housing growth


Plans are being put forward for Rotherham Council to have an "enabling and entrepreneurial role" in stimulating local housing growth, backed with a £30m war chest to boost house building and the construction industry.

The aim is to significantly increase the construction of new homes across the borough and work has been done to identify funding and delivery mechanisms that will enable the council to help deliver 850 homes a year. There are currently around 540 new homes delivered each year and work on the borough's local plan identified the need to provide land for an additional 12,750 homes by 2027.

Changes to government and local authority funding for housing and the move to a self-financing settlement means that councils could have access to significant resources in the longer term (an estimated £628m for Rotherham over 30 years, plus the ability to borrow £300m) but accessing the funding in the short term remains difficult.

The scrapping of the Housing Market Renewal Programme had a big impact in the region and the Government also recently announced that 35% of Rotherham's New Homes Bonus (a grant paid by central government to local councils for increasing the number of homes and their use) from 2015/16 will be diverted to the Sheffield City Region.

The changes to funding, coupled with the lack of external grants and the difficulty of getting loans and equity funding to stack up for Rotherham projects means that the council is looking at new ways to meet general and specialist housing need.

The council's cabinet is this week looking at plans to use a £32.7m "borrowing headroom" created by the self-financing settlement to deliver projects such as providing more affordable social homes, accelerating large scale residential development, kickstarting stalled housing developments, releasing council and other publicly owned land and buildings for housebuilding, and enabling new delivery models.

One example was the authority's recent purchase of a block of apartments at Taylor Wimpey's development at Manvers Lakeside which will be made available to council tenants.

Estimates included in the report show that 1,210 new homes could be delivered through the initiatives with a development value of £144m, creating new jobs and training opportunities.

A new housing development team would be established at the council and one significant potential project involves the creation of a housing growth capital pot of £10m aimed at boosting private sector development.

Major housing development underway in the borough includes Waverley, which has the potential to deliver 3,500 new homes, and Bassingthorpe Farm urban extension, a potential housing site being pushed by the council. With the potential to deliver 2,000 new homes, it is at an advanced stage of strategic planning. The report states that the council is considering establishing a joint venture vehicle with the private sector focusing on delivering major developments such as Bassingthorpe Farm.

Tom Bell, strategic housing and investment manager at Rotherham Council, said in the report: "Rotherham needs to create the right ingredients for local growth.

"The aim is to significantly increase the construction of new homes across the borough. This will stimulate the local economy and meet our regeneration aims which will mean more opportunities to meet our priorities around skills, jobs, deprived communities and relieve budget pressures through more New Homes Bonus and specialist housing."

Rotherham Council website

Images: Taylor Wimpey


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