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Ashford Council: Funding boost for new social housing

The delivery of new social housing across five districts in east Kent could be boosted by up to 25 percent in future years thanks to a successful bid for money to support an innovative partnership.

Housing professionals at the five local authorities in east Kent recently convened and agreed to find new ways of working together across district boundaries to help boost the numbers of new homes for the thousands of people who are on council waiting lists across the region.

The group formed in the summer of 2022, following a tour by senior officers and councillors of some recently delivered new-build affordable housing projects in Ashford.

The group’s collective goals are to:

  • accelerate delivery of affordable housing, particularly affordable and social rent homes, across east Kent
  • consider the challenges facing housing viability, such as decarbonisation, new legislative requirements etc
  • innovate to provide solutions to streamline development delivery, such as increased buying power and collaborating across borough boundaries
  • undertake a skills audit to be able to pool resources and identify specialisms
  • seek to expand the number of affordable rent homes delivered and consider First Homes
  • to maximise opportunities to attract funding into housing in east Kent
  • building energy efficient homes for life for the wellbeing of the occupants.

To kick-start its work, the group applied for funds from the Local Government Association Housing Advisers 2022/23 Programme and, despite it attracting a large number of bids that could have used the money three times over, were successful in being awarded £20,000.

Ashford Borough Council applied for the funding on behalf of the group, which is made up of senior housing officers working for Ashford plus Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Thanet District Council.

In awarding the funds, the LGA was endorsing the group’s objective of seeking expert advice to enable authorities across east Kent to work together more collectively to understand how they can jointly buy, jointly commission, share expertise and skillsets and explore the avenues that may be available to them to deliver more affordable housing as a collective with greater buying power, potentially leading to a strategic partnership status bid.

Hundreds of new-build homes planned

Currently Ashford Borough Council has a delivery target within its Housing Revenue Account Business Plan of achieving 50 new-build homes per annum. Folkestone has ambitious plans for 80 homes per annum, while Dover has ambitions to deliver an initial programme of 500 new council homes as soon as possible, having delivered 115 with 75 in the pipeline. Thanet’s HRA Business Plan sets out a commitment to develop 30 homes per annum for the next 10 years.

The group’s aim through collective working would be to be able to increase these delivery targets by 25% per annum.

“Smarter working”

Ashford Borough Council Chief Executive Tracey Kerly praised the ambition of the east Kent housing officers to boost the building of more social housing across the region.

“We strongly support this approach to collaboration to accelerate housing delivery. Smarter working is paramount in 2023 and with this coalition of the willing we want to deliver more affordable housing across east Kent,” said Tracey, who also holds senior positions with county-wide organisations like Kent County Council and the Kent Housing Group.

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