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| October 21, 2018

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New Homes for Neighbourhoods: Council House Building Project

New Homes for Neighbourhoods: Council House Building Project
Andrew O'Connor

Brighton & Hove City Council’s New Homes for Neighbourhoods programme is building much needed new council homes on council owned land.

Working with local resident associations, ward councillors, council staff and partners, the council aims to improve council estates and neighbourhoods, while “making best use of council housing land and buildings to deliver new, affordable rented homes that the city needs”.

There are thousands of households on the Homemove register wanting to rent a council or housing association home in Brighton & Hove and a shortage of affordable rented homes. There is a demand for more new homes for local residents and to help council tenants who now need to move to a bigger or smaller home, or to a home that meets their mobility needs.

The council already works closely with other social landlords to help them increase the supply of homes across the city. Under the New Homes for Neighbourhoods programme, the council is building new homes on its own land.

Due to a lack of big sites of unused council housing land available to build new estates, the council have opted to develop small ‘infill’ sites on council land, such as former offices, garage and car parking sites.

The council is also working with local communities to look at how, together,  we might regenerate council estates in the greatest need of investment, where there are opportunities to do so and to provide new homes. The council plans to involve and consult local residents and provide opportunities for them to have a say in the design of new homes.

The council welcome any suggestions of council sites that could be included in the New Homes for Neighbourhoods programme.

“We work closely with local tenant and resident associations and won’t start any development without proper consultation with local residents first.”

Most of the cost of building new homes will be repaid from rents from the new homes, alongside the use of some receipts from sales when other council tenants exercise their right to buy their council home and some of the savings we make by running council housing more efficiently. In addition, the project will make use of grant funding from central government.

via: fontplaydotcom (Flickr)

via: fontplaydotcom (Flickr)

Some future developments might include a few properties for sale to help pay to build homes for rent. For example, homes for Help to Buy shared ownership to help residents buy their first home by part-buying and part-renting. Having a mix of housing types can also help to build sustainable communities.

New homes are being let at ‘affordable rents’, like some housing association properties now let through Homemove. These rents help the council build many more new homes than would otherwise be possible. Although higher than current council rents, affordable rents are lower than private sector rents and are still within Housing Benefit limits for eligible households.

As well as being newly built and decorated, all new homes are very energy efficient, so tenants can save money on their heating bills compared to most other homes.

The council are building a range of housing types, from larger family houses to one bedroom flats. It depends on the site and the needs of each area. Homes are easily accessible and adaptable to meet residents’ changing needs and at least one in ten are designed especially for wheelchair users.

New homes are being built to high ecological standards to help minimise residents’ fuel bills and carbon emissions. They aim to support people to live sustainable lifestyles and encourage sustainable

The first new homes were completed in 2015 and seven schemes have been completed to date, alongside a programme of other sites in development, with completions expected later in 2017 and 2018.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s new homes for neighbourhoods programme is building new homes on council land on semi-derelict, boarded up and underused garages and cleared sites. The programme is hoping to build 500 homes across the city.

The Chair of Housing & New Homes Committee, Councillor Anne Meadows, explained that “with over 22,000 people on the housing register, creative ways are needed to look at how to use the infill sites available. The estate regeneration team is project managing the sites, liaising with stakeholders and testing how best to bring forward developments to ensure value for money, quality and speed. One way this is being achieved is by using in-house architects.”

Senior council architect Catherine Whitby outlined the benefits of working collaboratively across different departments, “ensuring processes can be streamlined, costs kept down and allowing work to start sooner on site.”

Project manager Sam Smith explained that the programme is called “‘New homes for neighbourhoods’ because it’s not just about building homes but improving neighbourhoods. Residents are involved right from the start and the team regularly attend residents’ association meetings to keep them up to date with progress, help minimise disruption to their lives and engage with them to improve things such as their garden areas.”

The Site Manager on one of the construction sites explained to us how weekly newsletters and open door policy are used to update residents.

Chris El Shabba, Chair of Due South Neighbourhood council for Whitehawk, explained how the planning for real consultation event engaged with residents’ needs.

The developments not only benefit the local community by providing much needed housing, but also benefit the local economy by creating opportunities for apprenticeships.

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