Chorley Council to form housing company to increase supply and quality of rented homes

Chorley Council wants to become 'the landlord of choice' in the borough - and is set to invest nearly £14m in over a hundred homes for affordable and private rent to its residents.

Thursday, 20th September 2018, 6:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th September 2018, 7:17 pm
Councillors voted for the authority to enter the local housing market.

The authority voted to establish a local housing company amidst concern over standards in some parts of the rental sector in the district and “a significant and continuous demand for affordable homes”.

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“This tells us that we, as a council, have very limited powers,” Cllr Fitzsimons said.

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In the past five years, 638 affordable houses have been built in Chorley as a result of planning conditions imposed on developers operating in the district. However, councillors were told that this supply was dependent on the state of the local housing market and had, in any case, failed to meet demand.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that the number houses offered for private rent in the borough almost trebled to more than 7,000 between 2001 and 2016. But a report presented to members reveals areas of “poor management and maintenance” in lower-value properties across Chorley.

Labour’s Steve Holgate acknowledged that it was difficult to make the scheme sustainable, but added: “Over the last few years, I’ve seen some of the registered housing providers lose their way and the people they are providing houses for seem to be falling lower and lower down the agenda.”

The council proposes to acquire 50 homes for affordable rent and a further 71 for lease at full market rates. The properties will be a mixture of new builds, houses for sale and empty homes brought back into use. The authority may eventually develop on its own land.

The opposition Conservative group said it fully supported the proposal - and wanted to see it sped up. “We would like to see the council pushing the boundaries - we think it should be done at a rapid pace,” deputy Conservative leader, Martin Boardman, said.

“I would love to see us building our own low-energy, high-eco households,” he added.

Fellow Tory, Eric Bell, said the houses needed to be “shared around the borough”, including in the traditionally more expensive rural areas.

As part of the plan, the council will loan £13.8m to a new local housing company, funded by a mixture of borrowing and grants from the government agency Homes England.

The 10-year strategy forecasts that the company will make a loss until its sixth year of operation. But that could be “mitigated” if the acquisition of homes were accelerated at the start of the process, the council report said.

Labour member Alan Whittaker said the move would “bring a little bit of dignity” back to the housing market.