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Council prioritises building new homes, support for tenants and investment in existing homes

News release from 17/01/2019

BUILDING new council homes, investing in existing properties, supporting council tenants making the transition to Universal Credit and improving the external areas of housing estates are the priorities set out in Cambridge City Council’s Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting Report (HRA BSR), which was published today.

The HRA BSR is rooted in the council’s vision for ‘One Cambridge – Fair for All’, and describes how the council will work to provide more homes for people in need, tackle inequality and support the wellbeing of its tenants.

It highlights how the council’s housing services are provided in the context of continued uncertainty in national policy and how the council will focus on delivering good quality housing services to new and existing tenants.

The report describes in detail how the council plans to allocate its housing resources in the year ahead, targeting resources on those people who are in greatest need. It was approved by councillors at Housing Scrutiny Committee this week for further consideration at Full Council on 21 February.

Key priorities include:

  1. Building at least 500 desperately needed new council homes, using £70 million secured as part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough devolution grant and Right to Buy receipts, including new proposed sites at Colville Road, Clerk Maxwell Road and the Meadows and Buchan Street areas; 
  2. Investing in the council’s existing housing stock for the present and future needs of tenants and the city more broadly by continuing the commitment to the decent homes standard to ensure people can live in modern, comfortable, safe and secure properties;
  3. Investing £1million per year over the next five years to improve council housing estates;
  4. Continuing the successful support for people affected by welfare reforms, including the introduction of Universal Credit, to help them maximise their incomes and avoid going into rent arrears.

Cllr Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Housing said: “People in Cambridge continue to face a situation in which housing is increasingly unaffordable for middle and low income earners.

“Building at least 500 new council homes in the coming years remains a key part of our response to that because we can provide more council homes for those people in greatest need.

“In spite of continued financial challenges we are also determined to continue providing quality housing services for our existing tenants and that means investing in their homes and the areas around our estates.

“Everyone has the right to a safe, secure and comfortable home and living without the fear of not being able to make ends meet. That is why we will continue to provide as much help and support as possible to people affected by the switch to Universal Credit and other welfare reforms.”

Major housing developments are already under way around the city including more than 200 new homes at the former Mill Road depot (of which 91 will be council homes), Anstey Way (56 new council homes) and Nuns Way/ Wiles Close (10 new council homes).

Housing is also earmarked for the Ridgeons site off Cromwell Road while smaller housing developments are planned at Kendal Way, Queen’s Meadow, Markham Close, Gunhild Way, Tedder Way and Kingsway Medical Centre.

The HRA BSR also sets out how the council will work to further improve its efficiency and make the most of the assets and investments that underpin its sound financial position.

Three years ago, the government instructed councils to cut social housing rents by 1% annually for four years and 2019-20 will be the fourth 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.

In 2019-20, new savings and additional income will contribute approximately £653,850 towards the council’s annual spend on housing services of approximately £30 million.