Since April 2011, Herefordshire Council has delivered 52 new affordable homes, using a range of resources from central government, private finance and private developers.
And to help further increase affordable homes in the county, Herefordshire Council is releasing some of its own land to allow for around 42 additional homes for local people across Ross, Leominster, Kingstone and Hereford.
WM Housing (locally managed by Kemble Housing) has been selected as the preferred housing partner to develop the affordable homes on the local authority land, and in return they will receive the land from Herefordshire Council at no cost to enable the properties to be affordable.
A report in November 2011 Inside Housing magazine said that there were 454 ‘start on sites’ nationally since April 2011, funded by the Homes and Community Agency (HCA), compared to 13,626 during the same period in 2010, demonstrating the impact the current economic climate has had across the country.
Councillor Brian Wilcox, Herefordshire Council’s cabinet member for the environment, housing and planning, said: “With this slow-down in house building generally by developers, we are using some of our own land for the development of affordable housing.
“We currently have around 5,000 people seeking affordable homes because the average house price in the county is £218,900 while the average salary is £25,280, which makes market-priced homes unaffordable for most residents.
“People need homes they can afford and by giving some of our land for developments means we can offer a capital contribution to enable the provision of these homes.
“This approach is being supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Homes and Communities Agency.
“WM Housing has also been awarded grant funding to deliver additional new housing in Herefordshire under the HCA National Affordable Homes Programme for both purchase and rent and managed locally by Kemble Housing and Herefordshire Housing Ltd.
Given the difficulties in delivering new homes, the council is also actively working with the owners of empty homes to bring them back into use for residential accommodation. As a result, 95 properties were brought back into use through various means, 58 of which had been empty for more than six months.
A new city centre living project is being piloted, which is helping to bring unused space above shops back into use as residential accommodation. This scheme will not only provide much-needed accommodation but will also improve the city centre environment and support the local economy. Herefordshire Council is currently working with partners to secure funding through the Government’s Empty Homes Programme to support future delivery of such schemes.
Overall the council has contributed towards bringing forward an additional 147 homes since April 2011 for residential occupation that would otherwise not have been available, and continues to develop new initiatives to ensure more homes can be delivered.