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Major multi-million pound plans unveiled to meet housing needs

Published: Tuesday, 14th January 2020

Plans for the biggest house building programme in a generation have been unveiled to help the city council meet the growing needs of residents and the city.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s cabinet has announced a suite of proposals to:

  • Commit £30m from its capital programme for its housing company Fortior Homes to build 450 new homes over three years from 2021. The homes will be split equally between 225 private rented houses and 225 open sale homes.
  • Invest £125m in building 1,000 new council homes over the next five years, on top of 370 already in the pipeline. The new homes include plans for 600 more properties for older people.
  • Invest an extra £30m over six years on existing council housing, ensuring they are of the highest quality – including accelerating a programme of fire safety and energy efficiency measures.
  • Launch a pioneering £1m ‘home buyers scheme’ to tackle the city’s 3,500 mainly privately owned long-term empty homes by providing low interest loans to help people buy them.

Councillor Joanne Powell-Beckett described the major plans as a ‘landmark moment’ for the city. She said: “These plans show our ambition and commitment to deliver for our residents. We are determined to meet the growing needs of our city by providing a mix of housing options that give local people real choice.

“It’s part of our vision for the city, and to deliver this we are taking decisive action now. We’re leading by ensuring our own house is in order first – we’re one of a number of authorities that has its own housing stock and we take this responsibility seriously. We carry out detailed rolling appraisals of our housing, and are investing heavily and appropriately to ensure they are of the best quality. For example, we’re planning to invest £7m over five years to upgrade tower blocks with measures including improving waterproofing and stairwells. We have ambitious plans to remodel two blocks into sheltered accommodation for older people, subject to full appraisal and scoping. We plan on converting 30 three-bedroom homes to properties that meet a range of needs, and we plan on investing £250,000 a year on improving bungalows that become empty, so we can modernise them and get them occupied even more quickly.”

The home buying scheme will build on the council’s current work in turning long-term empty properties that blight communities into use. This work currently sees the authority use a range of tools to bring back into occupation 200 privately owned homes a year that have been vacant for more than six months. The proposals will see equity loans of between 10-20 per cent of the value of these homes being made available at a low interest rate to prospective homeowners to help them with a deposit. Under the proposals, the council would look to partner with a mortgage provider in helping to facilitate the house purchase, with the resident then applying for an 80-90 per cent mortgage.

Councillor Randy Conteh, cabinet member for communities and safer city, whose portfolio includes private sector housing, said: “This is a highly innovative initiative designed to support local people in buying their own home. People who privately rent their property have told us that a big stumbling block for them getting on the housing ladder is that their income goes on rent and not enough is left over to save as a deposit. This scheme means we will assist in helping them with the deposit. They will still do everything else that a homebuyer would do including identifying the property, undertaking any repairs and making it their home.

“It’s another example of our groundbreaking approaches to support local people, and follows our reviving communities initiative which has helped people to buy long-term empty properties and breathe new life into communities. We’re excited that a new phase of this programme is also underway.”

The strategic housing investment programme was agreed by the council’s cabinet at a meeting on Tuesday (14 January).

The investment programme is in parallel with Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s second wave of investment in Fortior Homes, which was established in 2016 to bring forward a range of new products to expand the local housing market. To date, Fortior Homes has delivered 107 properties across a range of sites, bringing good quality housing to well-known brownfield sites such as Saxon Place on Lichfield Street in Hanley. The landmark Clayworks site in the city centre, another Fortior development, will be completed later this year, bringing an exciting city centre living experience to Stoke-on-Trent. The second phase of Fortior Homes was recently approved by the city council’s cabinet and further details will be unveiled later in the year.

It is proposed that the Fortior Homes investment will generate a return of around £4.7m over five years, through council tax, the government’s new homes bonus and interest payments, with the 225 rental properties having an estimated value of £42.3m in 10 years’ time, against the initial £30m investment.

The major investment in 1,000 new council homes will be supported by borrowing from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), after the council was at the forefront of discussions with government to successfully lift the borrowing cap. Funding will also come from existing HRA commitments and is to be supplemented by future retained right to buy receipts and Homes England grants.

Councillor Powell-Beckett added: “We have always been clear that with responsible borrowing and careful, considered strategic investment we can meet the needs of local people while being able to service that borrowing in a managed way.

“This investment will enable us to deliver a range of housing tenures for the residents of the city, to support our ambitious growth proposals and encourage people to look again at Stoke-on-Trent as a great place to live.”

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671 (journalists only)