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Friday 16 March 2012

Cheshire East Council acts to boost affordable housing


Cheshire East Council joined forces with social housing providers to deliver up to 50 new affordable homes across the Borough.

The Council has taken the strategic decision to increase the provision of affordable housing by utilising some of its own land assets.

Cheshire East is committed to improving community life and working with partners to develop an effective housing strategy.

Although new homes are urgently required to support the economic growth of Cheshire East, the downturn in the economy has had a significant negative impact on levels of new house building. This is particularly acute in the provision of affordable housing – resulting in a major shortfall in availability.

As a result, the Council has undertaken a pilot scheme to work with housing providers to use some of its smaller surplus sites and properties to increase the supply of affordable housing for sale and rent across Cheshire East.

In 2010, the authority started a procurement exercise to select an organisation that would work with them to develop and manage affordable housing on four of the approved sites, which included:

● Lot 1: Oakdene Court, Wilmslow. A derelict sheltered block, which had been vandalised and had become an eyesore for the local community;

● Lot 2: Churchside Cottage, Macclesfield. A row of five terraced properties, which had been used as offices. It is now the intention to restore them to their former glory;

● Lot 3: The Moss, Congleton Road, Macclesfield. Two semi-detached properties used as offices, which will be restored to provide much-needed family accommodation;

● Lot 4: Westview, Crewe. A former care home, which was no longer fit for purpose and required redevelopment.

A total of 14 organisations expressed an interest in developing the sites, with five of these progressing to the shortlist stage. Following a rigorous assessment process, Equity Housing Group was selected to develop Lots 1, 2 and 3 and Harvest Housing Group to develop Lot 4.

It is envisaged that the four sites will create about 50 units of accommodation, which will be completed by early 2014.

All the properties will be allocated via Cheshire Homechoice. This is the system for allocating social housing in accordance with Cheshire East’s housing allocations policy.

Councillor Jamie Macrae, Cabinet member with responsibility for prosperity, said: “The provision of affordable housing is a key priority for the Council and this announcement is really good news for the people of Cheshire East.

“This particular scheme enables the council to invest its assets in partnership with the housing sector, to provide much-needed affordable housing and provide an income to the Council for re-investment in future housing provision. 

“Following the success of the pilot, we can be confident that phase two of the scheme can proceed with the prospect of early delivery of further affordable housing provision across the Borough.

“The 2010 Strategic Housing Market Assessment revealed that, across the Borough, there is an annual shortfall of more than 1,000 affordable dwellings. While this is not a target, it is a clear indication of the level of need across the authority.

“We have 8,000 people registered on waiting lists for affordable housing and the greatest demand is for family accommodation.

“The level of Government grants available to encourage the building of affordable housing has been reduced significantly and therefore we need to explore alternative ways in which to increase provision. Using some of the Council’s land for this purpose is one important way to address this problem.

“The redevelopment of such sites will improve neighbourhoods and is another excellent example of the Council working with others to deliver for the people of Cheshire East.”

The land will be leased to the successful bidders for a period of up to 125 years for the provision of affordable housing. The Council will retain the freehold ownership of the land.

Equity Housing Group chief executive David Fisher said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to work alongside Cheshire East Council in making a positive difference to people’s lives and communities in Cheshire.”

Harvest Housing Group chief executive Ian Perry said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to help build much needed quality and affordable family homes in East Cheshire. Harvest Housing Group is proud to be working alongside Cheshire East Council to help regenerate communities and improve people’s lives.”

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