The Strategic Housing Services Manager presented a report focusing on the development of new Council houses at Loxley Close, Church Hill.
The Council was aiming to develop a number of two-bedroom properties at the site. This would mean the loss of land used by current residents for parking and action had been taken to mitigate against this issue through the provision of visitor parking spaces. The properties would help to meet significant demand in the Borough for two-bedroom properties; Members were advised that on the date of the meeting, there were 365 people on the Council’s waiting list for this type of property.
The properties would have a number of features designed to enhance the energy efficiency of the buildings, including air source heat pumps, subject to planning permission. The aim was to ensure that these properties all received an EPC A rating.
In order to fund the works, receipts would be used from Council house sales made under right to buy. Tenants would be charged affordable rents and it was anticipated that the Council would be able to cover the costs of the project from this rental income in just over 30 years’ time.
Members subsequently discussed the report in detail and in doing so commented on the following:
· The lessons that had been learned form the Council’s work developing new Council houses at Edgeworth Close.
· The potential for more Council houses to be developed by the authority in future years.
· The possibility that the Council could request support from the WMCA’s Housing and Land Delivery Board for the development of Council houses in the Borough.
· The location of the new houses in Loxley Close near to a flood plain and the implications of this for residents’ house insurance. Officers explained that the houses would be built outside the flood plain.
· The financial costs involved for tenants in operating air source heat pumps using electricity. Officers explained that research indicated that annual costs of heating associated with using air source heat pumps was between £670 and £720 per year per household compared to in excess of £1,000 per year per household using conventional heating methods.
· The reason why tenants would be charged an affordable rent for leasing these properties rather than a standard social rent. Officers explained that this was a legal requirement, arising from the Council’s use of receipts from the sales of Council houses under the right to buy process.
· The differences between social rents, affordable rents and market rents. The Committee was informed that social rents were approximately between 45 and 50 per cent of market rents whilst affordable rents were around 60 per cent of the rate of market rents.
· The attempts that had been made to develop Loxley Close in previous years and the difficulties that had been caused in relation to concerns about potential flooding at the site.
· The design features that had been incorporated into the properties to help mitigate against the risk of flooding.
During consideration of this item, an amendment was proposed by Councillor Joe Baker to the second proposal detailed in the report. This amendment was as follows:
“Authority is delegated to the Head of Community and Housing Services and Head of Finance and Customer Services to spend the approved budget following consultation with the ward Councillors.”
This amendment was proposed by Councillor Baker and seconded by Councillor Bill Hartnett.
In proposing the amendment, Councillor Baker commented that he felt that ward Councillors understood their communities best. Through requiring officers to consult with ward Members when spending the approved budget, Councillor Baker suggested that this would ensure that best value was achieved for the local community.
Members discussed the proposed amendment and in doing so considered the following points:
· The extent to which it was appropriate for Members to be involved at the level detailed in the amendment.
· The strategic focus of the Executive Committee and Council in respect of setting the budget for the proposed works.
· The potential for the decision-making process to be delayed through the involvement of all ward Councillors in this process.
· The collective decision-making arrangements for the Executive Committee at the Council and the fact that individual Members did not have decision-making powers.
· The potential for Officers to act on their delegated authority following consultation with the relevant Portfolio Holder.
On being put to the vote the amendment was defeated.
1) the HRA capital budget be updated as described in exempt Appendix 2 to undertake all development works for the proposal at Loxley Close;
1) authority be delegated to the Head of Community and Housing Services and Head of Finance and Customer Services to spend the approved budget;
2) authority is delegated to the Head of Community and Housing Services to submit the development proposal for planning permission;
3) subject to planning permission authority be delegated to the Head of Community and Housing Services to tender for the construction of the site through a design and build contract and other specialist consultants and surveyors to act for, or advise the Council and the commissioning of necessary reports all subject to the Council’s Standing Orders and Financial Regulations; and
4) the properties to be let as affordable rent capped to local housing allowance (LHA) levels for Redditch.
(During the consideration of this item, Members discussed matters that necessitated the disclosure of exempt information. It was therefore agreed to move to exclude the press and public prior to any debate on the grounds that information would be revealed relating to the financial and business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information)).