An affordable homes programme to be proud of…

At a time when the lack of affordable housing across the country is a hot topic, Ashford Borough Council has approved the provision of a further 190 homes through its Housing Revenue Account between 2018 and 2024. This is on top of the 159 homes that are being delivered in the current 2015-2019 period.

Cabinet members heard that since 2009, the Kent authority has delivered 186 homes through its Housing Revenue Account (HRA). The HRA is a separate account into which rent paid by tenants in the council’s housing stock is saved. The money is exclusively for the use of management, maintenance and repairs of these properties – and where possible it funds the construction or acquisition of more council properties.

Of those 186 properties, 149 have been council built through grant funding (the council has successfully bid for over £11m of Homes and Communities Agency funding since 2011), 30 are empty properties have been brought back into use, and the remaining seven are previously owned council properties sold under the right-to-buy legislation that have been bought back.

Ashford Borough Council is widely praised in central government circles for the way in which it approaches affordable housing delivery. Over 40% of all rural local needs homes built in Kent are built in the Ashford borough. Furthermore, 782 affordable homes have been built/brought back into use by the council in the last five years (plus an extra 153 built through a PFI initiative at Stanhope that has transformed the area).

In February 2016 Ashford was the first authority in the South East to be viewed by government as being Housing Business Ready, recognising its innovation and commitment. Ashford was also featured as a case study in the Elphicke-House report that went to central government commending the council’s strong approach to the delivery of affordable housing.

The council has increased the provision of affordable homes within its sheltered housing schemes. Farrow Court is a £17m project that is truly dementia-friendly and increases significantly the provision on that site. Danemore in Tenterden is being upgraded as well, which will also be dementia-friendly, with work under way on site.

The council is working with housing associations to bring other developments forward, which it has nomination rights on, for example at Bakers Court. Full consultation (as well as consultation through the planning process) will take place with areas where its small-scale proposals are put forward.

Deputy Portfolio Holder for Housing Cllr Aline Hicks, said:

“I’m pleased that we have taken this decision to proceed with a further programme of affordable homes delivery. The report set out further evidence of the council’s proactive approach to responding to the needs of our older residents in particular and providing good quality housing and homes for all.

“The programme is realistic and affordable and uses all potential funding streams to their maximum effect. The proposals tackle the need to continue to modernise our dated sheltered housing schemes and also deliver new provision.”