Leeds City Council has announced plans to invest more than £50m in new council houses across the city, in what would be one of the largest council house building programmes they’ve undertaken in over a decade.
The plans, which suggest a total of 358 new houses across the city, are to be put to decision-makers next week. It follows the government’s announcement that they would relax rules on borrowing to fun housebuilding, in an effort to tackle the growing housing crisis.
The abolishment of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) cap that controls local authority borrowing for house building was revealed at the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget. In effect, it will enable English councils to increase house building to around 10,000 homes a year.
Leeds City Council hopes to have the homes completed by 2021 and has suggested that it’s already looking at future sites where they can build further social housing. Indeed, a report set to go before members of LCC’s executive board says: “Through the proposals outlined in this report, the council will be able to deliver one of its most ambitious council housing growth programmes over the next three years.
“The housing schemes detailed in this report represent the first phase of the council’s new build housing plans. Looking ahead, the intention is to continue to deliver at volume and at pace, with an aspiration to deliver 300 new council homes per year on an ongoing basis.”
The cost of this first phase of the scheme is expected to run just shy of £55 - £54.8m. Of that, £38m would be pulled from the freshly revamped HRA, £6.3m would come from a Homes England grant and £10.4m would be retrieved from money the council made through the sale of Right to Buy council houses.
The council have not yet put forward funding plans for their ambitious 300-homes-per-year plan, though it would be unreasonable to expect such detail this far ahead of time.
Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for communities, said: “The council has worked hard to ensure we are in a position to move ahead and build new council houses across the city at such a quick pace.
“We are committed to providing new homes through the housing growth programme and the lending cap being lifted by the government means that we can do more to deliver new high-quality affordable homes much faster.”
Shortages in council housing have been a long-running issue in Leeds, with Leeds council bosses reaching out to the Government last year to demand “radical” changes I policy to help bridge the gap between demand and production.
They suggested that the Government granted more powers for councils to allocate sites for affordable housing themselves – as they presently are able to do for travellers and older people – rather than waiting for Government to sign-off on every site.
Those changes have not yet been forthcoming, with the government instead choosing to focus on funding rather than greater local council control.