Wealden – Budget for more affordable homes

Wealden District Council has welcomed Whitehall decisions which will enable it to address the problems of the local housing market.

Cllr Graham Wells told Cabinet that recent Government announcements gave greater certainty to the Council’s own plans to build more affordable homes. In September the Council announced plans to build 214 new affordable homes over the next four years. But these were being put in jeopardy by rules on borrowing and council house sales.

“Things have changed since we drew up last year’s housing budget,” said Councillor Wells. “We now have much greater certainty in order to pursue our plans.

“This is good news. We can now play our part in meeting the national need for new homes which has been estimated at 300,000 a year.”

In its recent Housing Green Paper, the Government announced that it would not be expecting local authorities to sell off their high value council houses to fund the provision of right-to-buy for Housing Associations.

The Government has also announced the removal of a debt cap on local authority housing budgets which limited how much they could borrow to build affordable homes locally. Councils can now set their own prudent limit for borrowing. For Wealden, this will be £95 million, an increase of £23.3 million on the previous limit.

These announcements have enabled Wealden to increase spending on its New Build council housing investment programme over the next five years, including the use of £4.9 million from HRA balances.

As well as building new council homes, Wealden’s Housing Revenue Account budget also seeks to:

• Use opportunities to buy “off the peg” affordable homes from developers where appropriate.
• Maintain the high quality of its current stock of 3,000 council homes.
• Ensure all tenants receive this coming year’s 1% rent reduction in line with Government policy.

Cabinet’s proposals for Wealden’s Housing Revenue Account budget will now go out for consultation with stakeholders including WRAG, the Wealden Residents Action Group.

You can watch a webcast of Cabinet discussing Wealden’s Housing Revenue Account budget here: https://wealden.publici.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/390888