When it comes to providing affordable housing, Ashford Borough Council leads the way in Kent for consistent delivery and innovation.
The council’s cabinet members have agreed to release £1.675million from its housing revenue account (which is the account that holds rent money allocated for social housing improvements) to help deliver around 15 more affordable homes by March 2014. A further £0.5million, to support the delivery of the 39 properties that are in its current affordable housing programme, has also been agreed. The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has allocated £346,530 of funding, making over £2million available.
Delivering affordable housing is a high priority for the council as it faces the challenges of a growing population and an increasing demand for social housing. With funding from central government reducing, the council has already indicated that it needs to think innovatively to deliver on its corporate priorities. Welfare reform changes have also placed pressure on the council’s housing stock, with two-bedroom properties now being much sought-after as a result of rules regarding under-occupation.
With cabinet approval secured, the council will now look to purchase 15 predominantly ex-council owned properties, with an average price of £135,000, and make them available to people on the council’s waiting list.
The council has now been successful in securing over £7million of funding from the Homes and Communities Agency in the last three years to deliver affordable homes, including some brand new ones, in the borough.
Councillor Aline Hicks, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for housing and customer services, said:
“The cabinet’s decision is tremendous news and shows once again that we are leading the way in Kent on the delivery of affordable housing, thinking proactively to try and solve the challenges we face.
“One of the reasons we are able to take advantage of the HCA money is because other providers are unable to deliver the new homes within the timeframe required, and I’d like to point out that it was the HCA that contacted us, because of our proven track record.
“Buying back predominantly old council stock delivers good value at current prices, considering the excellent space standards and proximity to the rest of our stock. We are acting now to take advantage of the current housing market conditions, and seizing this opportunity to help reduce the current waiting lists.
“We lead the way with our affordable housing delivery. Four out of every ten rural affordable homes built in the county are built in Ashford, Our social lettings agency ‘ABC Lettings’ won an award at the 2013 Kent Housing Group awards and another scheme to help adults with learning difficulties in South Willesborough has been shortlisted in the past. We continue to demand high numbers of affordable homes from new developments too.
“This innovative approach is essential to continue to deliver on our priorities.”