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Council plan to set up two house building companies

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Cllr Russ Bowden

TOWN Hall chiefs at Warrington are to be urged to approve the business case for setting up two companies, wholly owned by the borough council, with the aim of building 500 high quality homes.
This follows a document agreed by the council’s executive board in December 2016 which identified the need to speed up the provision of home in Warrington and made specific reference to 26,000 new homes – including 7,800 affordable homes – by 2040.
It also made reference to establishing a housing company.
In a report to be considered by the executive board next week, finance chief Cllr Russ Bowden points out that in a White Paper published almost a year ago – “Fixing our broken housing market” – the Government indicated it would intervene locally in areas where the number of homes being built was below expectations.
Not enough houses were being built and it was clear that the level of housing need had only ever been met when local authorities had played a major role.
There was a clear need for housing in Warrington. In November there were 3,202 households seeking social housing in Warrington. In order to meet the council’s growth aspirations there was a need for 1,113 houses a year, of which 288 needed to be affordable.
Cllr Bowden said: “The business case that supports the establishment of council owned arms-length housing companies is built on the assumption that the housing companies will build or acquire 500 homes. The first phase of development will initially be on two council-owned sites.”
Council chiefs have considered eight options the best ways of generating house building – and the recommended one was the setting up of two housing companies.
One would be a development company, the other an operating company. Their aim would be to maximise revenue income through the deliver high quality housing of mixed tenure in addition to housing built by private developers and housing associations.
Directors of the companies would be council staff. Initially they would not employ their own workforce with the council seconding or providing employees on a labour only basis.
Cllr Bowden’s report says that the two companies should be established by May and that 154 properties should be built and occupied by April 2020.
Warrington will not be a trail-blazer. More than 100 council-owned building companies have already been set up.

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