Council invests £23 million in social housing

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Scores of local families who are desperate for decent affordable permanent homes will be helped thanks to a £23 million investment by Canterbury City Council.

The council has bought the freehold of 44 properties off Sturry Road in Canterbury, which will be converted into 63 self-contained flats and houses.

More of the houses bought by the council in Parham Close

Council leader Cllr Simon Cook said: “This deal has been a long time coming and is the result of a great deal of hard work by officers behind the scenes. We have not been able to talk about this earlier for fear of being gazumped by those with deeper pockets than our own.

“These properties, which are close to the city centre, will provide a massive boost in the number of socially-rented homes across the district. Local people tell us affordable housing is one of their key priorities and high house prices and market rents are an issue.

“This is part of an ongoing programme to increase the number of council flats and houses that started in 2015. By 31 March this year, we had already bought 47 homes. This deal will take the number to 110.”

This block in Albert Mews will also be converted into council housing

There are 2,401 households on the city council’s Housing Needs Register who, for various reasons, are unable to afford private market housing. The council is approached by around 1,000 households a year who fear they are about to be made homeless.

Statistics show homes that are among the cheapest 25 per cent of properties in the district, known as the lower quartile, cost more than 13 times the income of the 25 per cent lowest earners. House-price-to-income ratios show most single earners and people on low incomes cannot afford to buy or rent a home.

It will take some time for the conversion work to take place but officers are determined to house the first tenants as quickly as possible.

Buying and adapting these properties rather than starting from scratch has a number of advantages:

  • It would be impossible to find a similar size site, negotiate its acquisition, get planning permission and develop 63 homes in anywhere near the same timeframe
  • Having a large number of homes in the same place makes managing them much easier when compared to 63 homes spread across the district
  • The council can tailor the existing 44 properties to suit its immediate housing needs
  • By providing more permanent homes for families in housing need, there should be less need for temporary accommodation

These purchases will be partly funded from the money received from homes sold under the Right to Buy scheme which enables people to buy their council house. Part funding will also come from the council’s housing reserve with the balance made up by a loan.

The government limits the amount of money councils can borrow to pay for council properties.

The properties in Parham Close, Riverdale House, Albert Mews, Stour Promenade and Glenside Avenue are currently divided into 193 student bedsits with communal facilities like kitchens and bathrooms. The council plans to reconfigure these properties to create 52 self-contained homes that are a mixture of houses and flats providing permanent accommodation for council tenants.

In total there will be 132 bedrooms plus generous living space and modern facilities.

Contracts for these properties were exchanged on Friday 15 June and completion is expected to take place in August once the academic year has come to an end. If the council can take possession earlier, it will.

This will allow officers to assemble a team to work on the redesign in readiness for the building work to start upon completion of the purchase, with the aim of housing its first tenants as quickly as possible.

In addition, the council has purchased Parham Court, a three-storey block of six flats, two per floor, providing 23 rooms to be let. After adaptation this will provide four two-bedroom flats and two two/three-bedroom flats. And the council has also purchased five three-storey townhouses in Parham Close.

This deal (Parham Court and Parham Close) exchanged and completed on Thursday 12 July.