Council drawing up business plan to set up housing company

Building new homes in East Devon to increase the supply of properties in the district and meet an ever-growing demand is the main priority for setting up a housing company says the council’s lead councillor for homes and communities.

The council believes the company is a long–term sustainable solution to increase the supply of properties in the area – for sale or rent – and to meet the need for good quality homes.

Cllr Jill Elson, EDDC’s Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities, is keen to stress that the focus of the company will be to provide much needed homes in the district.

She said:

This is an innovative approach to a long term problem in our district. We recognise that we need to do something very different, if we are to ensure that our residents have the homes that they need and we, among many other councils across the country, believe that a local housing company is the right solution. Our proposals are also consistent with the Government’s housing white paper which is encouraging growth in the housing market.

We see a local housing company as an extension of our role as a social landlord where we manage our own council housing stock of around 4,200 properties and we have an excellent reputation for the way we do this. As part of our council stock portfolio we have built homes, we have bought homes and we have redeveloped a Victorian house into a shared property with en-suite facilities, therefore, this is nothing new to East Devon District Council.

We have carried out a careful appraisal of setting up such a company and where risks exist we have very solid proposals to mitigate them. We have prepared the ground carefully and there are strict governance controls in place. This is to allay any fears that the council will build or buy well outside our local area.

Setting up a housing company is an exciting step change for us and we believe our ambition will pay dividends for our residents.

East Devon is among many councils in the country who are establishing housing companies to directly build new homes for rent and sale in their areas. Amid increasing government reductions to council funding, the company would also generate income for the council which will be used to benefit our local residents.

The company, which would be wholly owned by the council, would be financed by the council and any profits would come back to East Devon District Council.

The benefits of setting up a company, which are outlined in an EDDC Cabinet report earlier this month, would be opportunities to buy and let existing homes, including acquiring properties from developers, with the possibility of developing council-owned land or land bought through the open market. The company would be run as a business by a board of directors.

The council is now drawing up a business plan and will report back to the council.