Council plans for housing company to meet Welwyn Hatfield demand

PUBLISHED: 16:15 16 January 2019

Welwyn Hatfield Council Offices. Picture: Kevin Lines

Welwyn Hatfield Council Offices. Picture: Kevin Lines

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Welwyn Hatfield Council hopes to meet growing demand for affordable homes by setting up its own housing company - and has already identified 16 possible sites.

A report to Cabinet says that there are currently 8,000 households in Welwyn Hatfield who do not qualify for social housing, but are also struggling to afford market prices.

The average house price in Welwyn Hatfield is £392,530 - way above the national average of £232,554.

However, the rules around the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) limit the council borrowing that would allow it to build more.

The proposed solution is a council-owned housing company that would focus on building new ‘intermediate’ homes on council land, which would then be available for sale and rent below market levels.

The proposal will be voted on at a special Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, January 22.

The council has already identified up to 16 sites that could deliver new homes, and it continues to look for new land opportunities.

Homes for social and affordable rent would continue to be provided through the council’s Affordable Housing Programme, which has delivered more than 200 homes to date and has a further 700 in the pipeline.

The report’s authors believe the housing company will relieve pressure on the council’s housing register through expanding the number of options available.

The council would be the sole shareholder of the company.

Councillor Nick Pace, executive member for housing and communities, said: “Good quality housing is the foundation for vibrant, healthy communities and we are absolutely committed to doing what we can to help local people own or rent a home that’s right for them.

“The housing crisis is being felt all over the country, but it’s especially acute in our borough where property prices are so high and owning your own home feels out of reach for many.

“The new company would help bridge the gap between the good work the council is already doing to deliver new homes for those on lower incomes and what the market is providing.”

If Cabinet approves the recommendation on Tuesday night, more work will be carried out to finalise the business plan and funding arrangements, and a company would be operational by summer 2019.

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