£100million housing plan for Cheltenham approved

 

A housing plan which will see Cheltenham Borough Council borrow £100million to build affordable homes was approved on Monday.

The council will pass over the money from a loan board to its arms-length housing company, Cheltenham Borough Homes, who will invest in affordable homes and pay the money back.

The plan is to combat high rents for young people in Cheltenham whose income is eaten up by rent that they can’t save up for a house.

The Liberal Democrat councillor who is in charge of the plan, Peter Jeffries, said he was “pleased” the proposals were approved.

Opposition members welcomed the scheme, among them was Conservative councillor Louis Savage who said: “This is absolutely the way the council should be acting to retain young people in this town.”

The aim will be for CBH to step-in on developers who are struggling to deliver the housing requirement, and give them the financial support to build the homes – as long as they are affordable.

At the moment, people in their twenties face a financial strain as average rents for a one-bedroom home eat up more than 30 per cent of typical salary in 65 per cent of British postcode areas.

Research by the BBC showed that in Cheltenham, 22-29 year-olds in Cheltenham see 41 per cent of their income go on their rent alone – while the South West average is 34 per cent.

As a result, young people have resorted to flat-sharing or living with their parents to overcome the struggle.

Last night, councillors unanimously approved the plan which would help tackle the issue.

Lib Dem councillor Max Wilkinson proposed a motion last year calling on the council to make more effort to tackle unaffordable housing in the district.

Speaking before yesterday’s council, Mr Wilkinson (Oakley) said: “I am pleased to see that one year on, the policy is coming to fruition.”

The £100m will be borrowed from the Public Work Loans Board, an agency which lends money to local authorities, and the council will have up to 40 years to pay the money back.

The money will be invested in around 500 homes on secure long-term contracts.

Councillor Peter Jeffries, cabinet member for housing at the council, said: “I’m delighted that the council has approved the housing investment plan.

“This supports the council’s commitment to addressing issues such as the lack of affordable, high quality rented accommodation on secure tenancies as the growth of our local economy relies on a diverse and healthy housing market.

“We can now look at locations such as existing allocations, brownfield sites and the open market to deliver the project with Cheltenham Borough Homes.”

A working group will also be set up to scrutinise the scheme as it moves forward to “prioritise and maximise the social benefit, with an ambition to not only meet but exceed the council’s minimum 40 per cent affordable housing target.”

By Leigh Boobyer – Local Democracy Reporter

 

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