Agenda item

To recommend a Housing Acquisitions & Development Policy for adoption by the Council.


That –


(a)    the Housing Acquisitions and Development Policy be adopted; and


(b)    the Housing Portfolio Holder be authorised to make updates or amendments to the Policy, if required, after its adoption.



The Cabinet gave consideration to a report of the Housing Portfolio Holder (A.2) which sought its approval adoption of the Housing Acquisitions & Development Policy.


The Cabinet was aware that one of the key priorities in the Council’s recently adopted Housing Strategy was to deliver a Housing Acquisitions & Development Policy in order to facilitate the delivery of additional council housing in the District. The policy set out the demand for housing in the District; the various mechanisms through which the Council could develop or acquire homes; and where the Council intended to deliver those homes. The policy also set out the criteria that must be followed before deciding to develop or acquire homes and the risks involved and how those risks could be mitigated.


It was reported that the Council had traditionally delivered housing through its Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and it was the largest provider of social housing in the District.  The Council had and could deliver Council Housing via the HRA and there were a multitude of mechanisms which could be deployed to develop and acquire homes but homes delivered through the HRA or via the General Fund would be subject to the provisions of the Housing Act 1985 so tenants would therefore have the various rights (such as the Right to Buy) and obligations enshrined in that Act.


Members recognised that one of the key considerations and costs for any new build property was land and, in particular, the cost and location of such land.  Members were aware that as one element of the Jaywick Sands housing led renewal process, the Council had purchased approximately 30ha of mainly green field land within the Jaywick Sands settlement.  Clearly therefore, delivering the Council’s ambition to deliver 100 new homes for local people in Jaywick Sands could be accommodated, notwithstanding technical and logistical challenges, on that land.  However, the Council also held within the HRA parcels of land across the District, many of which were suitable for development and would provide opportunities for residents to be accommodated in areas across the District where there was currently no housing available.  Many of those sites would provide challenges to bring them forward for development. 


Whilst focusing on the Council’s ambition to deliver two hundred additional homes it was also noted that the Council would bring into its stock a further approximately 180 new build homes when those were gifted to the Council under historic Section 106 agreements. Those gifted homes were in addition to the aspiration to deliver 200 Council homes.  Members recalled that in response to a very low take up by Private Registered Providers of affordable housing units which were offered as part of Section 106 agreements (this followed following changes to rent controls in social housing), the Council had developed a unique gifting solution to bring forward affordable housing units but without placing an unsustainable financial burden on the Council.  The gifting solution was a time bound arrangement until financial circumstances changed and had now been withdrawn from use other than in exceptional circumstances.


The Cabinet was advised that the Council had been recognised as “Housing Business Ready” following an audit by the Housing and Finance Institute and it was considered essential to build upon the good foundations already established within the Council to influence the market and deliver new homes ourselves.


The proposed Acquisitions and Development Policy recognised that building new homes was only one way in which the Council could increase its housing stock. Given the need to deliver homes at relative pace it was likely that some existing homes would be bought from the private market or other social/affordable housing providers. The Council would therefore focus efforts on a number of delivery methods in order to maximise delivery.


The Cabinet was informed that the Policy did not make any changes to the existing constitutional arrangements around property acquisition and the Property Dealing Procedure although changes might be considered in future if it was believed that they would be beneficial.


Having considered the contents of the proposed Housing Acquisitions and Development Policy:-


It was moved by Councillor P B Honeywood, seconded by Councillor Stock OBE and:-




(a)    the Housing Acquisitions and Development Policy be adopted; and


(b)    the Housing Portfolio Holder be authorised to make updates or amendments to the Policy, if required, after its adoption.



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