PROVIDING more homes for people in desperate need remains a top priority for Cambridge City Council.
The Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting Report (BSR), published today, describes how the council will invest in housing services in the coming year to target resources on those people in greatest need and to improve efficiency.
The council has delivered 278 new homes in Cambridge since 2015, of which 242 are new council homes and plans for a further 221 homes across 17 sites are in the pipeline.
The council intends to build 500 new council homes using £70 million secured as part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution deal. Right to Buy receipts from council house sales will also be put back into building more homes.
The report sets out how the council proposes to make savings against a target of £250,000 from its housing service for 2018-2019 to ensure it can continue to provide services to tenants, taking account of changes to government policy and the continued requirement to reduce rents.
Two years ago, the government instructed councils to cut social housing rents by 1% annually for four years and 2018-19 will be the third year of reductions, subject to any revised instructions from government.
The effect of this, over the four years, will be to reduce income to the council from its 7,000 tenancies by over £6 million per year by 2019-20.
Other legislative changes are expected to put pressure on the housing budget such as the proposed sale of high value assets, although the detail for this national policy is still awaited.
Efficiency measures already made include bringing the housing team together in one area office and reducing the turnaround time to let a standard council home to a new tenant.
A review of management and staff levels has already achieved savings in the current year, alongside changes to the planned maintenance programme to council homes.
The council is working on further initiatives to refocus the services it provides, and to clarify which repairs tenants are responsible for. It is also exploring options for sharing some housing services with other councils.
Cllr Kevin Price, Executive Councillor for Housing, said: “Having a secure and decent place to call home is a basic human need and one which allows families and individuals to flourish, creating strong foundations for communities that are able to support themselves and lifting many out of poverty.
“Cambridge has particular challenges with pressure on housing making it become ever more unaffordable to middle and low income earners and for some, the consequences mean facing homelessness.
“That is why providing genuinely affordable housing remains a focus for the council and a key part of our plan for the future to provide help and support to people who need it most.”
Cllr Price added: “Although we have the £70m grant for new homes, our housing finances remain under pressure, not least because of continuing uncertainty around national housing policy and welfare changes.
“Modernising the way we provide services is the best way to improve our efficiency and target those people that need us most.”
Councillors will discuss the report at Housing Scrutiny Committee on 17 January.