Councillors have agreed to push forward with plans that could see Derbyshire Dales District Council build and manage houses again for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The authority hopes to fill a void in demand for housing fit for the area’s more vulnerable population – and build homes which better suit their needs.
The project is thought to cost £6.6 million and would be fully funded largely through housing developer contributions but also with grants from Homes England and down payments from residents buying into shared ownership schemes.
It could see 50 homes built by 2024 and all would be more obtainable – with 42 offered at affordable rent (80 per cent of market rent) or shared ownership, in which tenants can gradually buy the house over time.
During a council meeting on Wednesday night, Coun Mike Ratcliffe said: “One of the first things which happened when I joined this council was the selling off of our housing stock to Dales Housing, and I want to make sure we don’t go down that road again.
“This is the most exciting proposal we have had before this council in years – it would help to fulfil one of my own personal objectives about being proactive about building houses.”
Meanwhile, Coun Steve Flitter said: “It doesn’t take a lot to get this council excited, but I remember that decision we made at the start of the Millennium.
“I know the reason it was done, but I still have problems with it.
“We weren’t the best landlords, but by God, it hasn’t moved much further.
“I don’t think that housing associations are that safe, they change hands all the time, whereas with the council, hopefully it should be here for a few more years yet.”
In 2002, the authority sold off 3,338 council houses to Dales Housing for £24.8m, with the housing association to carry out £39 million in repair and improvement works.
At the time, housing minister Lord Falconer said Derbyshire Dales tenants would ‘clearly benefit’ from a greater say in the management of their homes as well as the extensive modernisation programme.
He said: “This transfer will allow modernisation and improvement works to go ahead more quickly, as Dales Housing is not limited by local authority borrowing restrictions.”
The move had been supported by 69 per cent of council house tenants.
Rob Cogings, the district council’s head of housing, said: “If we build our own affordable housing, we want it to be the best, we want the best quality and to provide long-term homes for our residents – this includes energy efficient homes, and we could look at installing solar panels.
“We would also be aiming to offer a tenant support system – which we hope would keep them around longer.
“Some sites have been identified, small sites, but we don’t want to announce those now so that we don’t start the hares running.
“Some of the homes we would be looking to build would involve taking on long-term empty properties that are blighting our communities.
“There are properties that cost £150,000 and only need around £20,000 of work, with not a massive amount of investment needed.
“But we are mostly looking at using Section 106 (financial contributions from housing developers) houses (within approved developments), where all the hard work has been done.
“We will be asking difficult questions of our suppliers in this process, and that may not be a housing association, it could be a private company – and there a number of other companies from outside of the district.
“We are only the landlord of one property at the moment. We have only got £1.4m in our Section 106 pot at the moment, with £1 million on the way soon.
“There is more coming soon but many of the developers simply haven’t started building yet.”
Council leader, Coun Lewis Rose, said: “This is an excellent direction of travel, and it probably is the most exciting project we have had in the last year.
“We have to take the first step and take this task forward, and I am looking forward to the opportunity to do that.”
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service