The first families have moved into new social housing bought by the city council in a recent £23 million investment.
In July, the council announced it had agreed a deal to purchase the freehold of 44 properties off Sturry Road in Canterbury, to be converted into 63 self-contained flats and houses, providing a total of 132 bedrooms.
Now, less than two months after finalising the deal, six of the properties are up and running and being used as temporary accommodation.
Six families that are currently being housed by the council on a temporary basis, while they await the offer of a permanent council home, have moved in. They were previously in accommodation outside of the district, due to a chronic shortage of suitable housing in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable.
Chairman of the council’s Community Committee, Cllr Neil Baker, said this was the first step in the process to get all the properties the council had purchased in use as quickly as possible.
He said: “There is a lot of work involved in getting most of these 44 student properties converted so that they are suitable for family living, but one of the blocks needed relatively little doing to it, and it’s these six homes that we have been able to get families into pretty swiftly.
“This is still temporary accommodation, but it means we have been able to get them back to the local area, nearer to family and friends and into housing of a higher quality, which can only be a good thing as they wait for a long-term home.
“The lack of suitable temporary accommodation in the district has been an issue for some time, so these properties are much needed. It is only as a last resort that we have to place people outside of the area and when we do this, it is for as short a period as possible.”
The £23 million investment in council housing is 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.
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 longer-term