Councillor Johnson introduced the report and stated he was very pleased to see this coming to Cabinet. He described how the report outlined plans for 500 new council homes within the next 5-10 years, funded through the HRA. He added that Thurrock currently provided roughly 500 council tenants with monetary advice to stop homelessness across the borough, and the proposed 500 houses could also stop the rise of homelessness. He mentioned that this project would be supported by Thurrock Regeneration Limited, who would be well placed to assist with the delivery. He then described how a high-level financial model had been undertaken to ensure the self-financing of the project, which had taken into account current government legislation, and found that the project could be self-financing if weekly rent was 57% of current market value. He added that Thurrock needed new council homes as well as infrastructure, and stated that the council would continue to work with landlords and Thurrock Regeneration Limited to meet the council home target. He stated that the next step in the project would be to identify the types of homes needed and their location, and challenges would be identified. He summarised that this was only possible due to the removal of the HRA borrowing cap by central government, which allowed local council’s to increase their social housing stock, and ensured all residents could be provided with suitable and safe housing. He finally mentioned that this project, if agreed by Cabinet, would be going to the Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee and then on for consultation.
Councillor Watkins thanked Councillor Johnson for the report and stated that he felt this was good work. He stated that this put the council on the right path towards building new council homes, and looked forward to the comments from Housing Overview and Scrutiny Committee. The Leader added that this was a good first step in providing council homes, as there were 1500 new cases of homelessness in the borough every year, which costs taxpayers money. He stated that the council would not be advertising how much they would spend on the project, as Thurrock wanted developers to meet their criteria, but the figure would run into the billions.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
1. Approved that a housing development pipeline be prepared to seek to deliver up to 500 new Council homes for Thurrock residents over the next 5 to 10 years to be funded within the Housing Revenue Account.
2. Delegated authority to the Corporate Director of Place in consultation with the Corporate Director of Adults, Health and Housing and the Director of Finance and IT, as well as the Cabinet Member for Housing, to ensure the Council Homes Delivery Programme is adequately resourced in accordance with the Council’s Procurement Regulations and to enter into appropriate agreements as may be necessary to seek to secure the necessary statutory consents to deliver 500 new Council homes.
3. Agreed to refer this decision to Housing Overview and Scrutiny for its consideration and advice on ensuring the successful delivery of a New Council Homes Programme through the HRA.
Reason for Decision – as stated in the report
This decision is subject to call in