Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Thurrock Council defend decision over housing improvements

TOP Thurrock councillors have agreed to put back the deadlines for council home improvements in an effort to comply with new government instructions.

The one per cent cut in rents in each of the next four years, combined with the rent increases for families earning £30,000 or more and the need to sell void council homes to help pay for the extension of right-to-buy to housing associations forced the move.

Cllr Lynn Worrall, portfolio holder for housing, told cabinet on Wednesday (9 December) evening: “We had a plan and for 2½ years it was working well.”

But changes have to be made.

She said: “We should extend our Transforming Homes programme by up to one year for internal improvements – affecting up to 1,000 homes – and delay external improvements by up to three years which this is set to affect up to 5,000 homes.

“Over the last 2½ years we have had a proud record of remaining in line with our published timeframe from 2013/14, but by doing this we will save a further £5½ million over the next four years.

“We are also asking that rents for all newly built council homes are set at an affordable rents level of 70 per cent of the market rent.

“This will mean a significant difference in rent levels between existing homes and new build homes in our stock, but if we don’t do this we’ll have around £700,000 less in rent.

“We are also asking for approval to remove the plans to build around 20 new homes on the Rippleside metal works site which will bring our expenditure down by another £4 million.”

But she said: “Taking all this into account and the fact we have maxed out our borrowing capacity to address this need; it appears there is still a £2 million gap in our business plan over the next four years.

“So perhaps the most important recommendation is the application to the Secretary of State for an exemption for the requirement to implement to full one per cent reduction, this is currently being fully developed and an update is set to go before council in the New Year.

“And finally, on a more positive note, the first set of new homes funded primarily by the Housing Revenue Account are set to have people moving in during January – that’s 53 on Seabrooke Rise and 25 new HAPPI (Housing our Aging Population Panel for Innovation) homes in Derry Avenue.”

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