Creative loan offer redefines what ‘council housing’ can be

A low rate finance facility backed by a district council bids to get affordable homes built.

South Lakeland

The concept of ‘council housing’ is re-defined with the launch of a £6m  loan fund to help to build affordable homes.

The loan facility fund enables housing associations to access low rate finance from Cumbria’s South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) – removing an obstacle which may be preventing them from developing more affordable housing in the area.

Councillors have voted unanimously in favour of the fund described as ‘innovative’ and ‘aspirational’ during a meeting of SLDC’s cabinet.

In exchange for funding, SLDC will receive a financial return from the repayment of the loans and fulfil its pledge to work with partners to deliver affordable homes which local communities need.

Council leader, Cllr Giles Archibald, said: “It’s a fantastic win, win, win, win, deal.

“It’s a win for residents who need homes they can afford, it’s a win for housing associations, a win for our Council Tax payers because this is efficient use of money we already have, it’s a win for the local economy because house building stimulates economic growth.”

The creation of the new loan fund follows a council-commissioned study which has identified the need for more creative approaches to delivering affordable housing.

SLDC will initially allocate a maximum of £6m to the loan fund, from existing and projected housing resources.

Cllr Jonathan Brook, portfolio holder for housing and innovation, said: “The loan facility is innovative and highlights our ambitions to deliver homes to meet local need.

“This is a starting point, an initial £6m made available to our primary partner, South Lakes Housing, and other housing authorities should they come forward to take advantage of it.

“Around 3,100 households are currently on the waiting list for social housing in South Lakeland and this figure has remained remarkably stubborn. This highlights the difficulties we face in our district, underlines the need for council intervention and shows we need to take action.”

At the cabinet meeting, Labour group leader, Cllr Mark Wilson, added his support for the new loan fund:

“I’m impressed. This is a highly aspirational piece of work,” he said.

SLDC is on target to assist in the creation of a minimum 1,000 new affordable homes for rent by 2025.

A recent Strategic Housing Market Assessment concluded that up to 320 new homes need to be built every year across South Lakeland, of which up to 290 new properties are required annually in SLDC’s planning area outside the Lake District National Park.

Cllr Brook added: “The new loan facility, which will allow housing associations to draw down on a scheme by scheme basis, should accelerate the delivery of more homes which our communities need.

“I wish to stress that we are not turning our back on open market housing through private sector investment and we will continue to encourage the development of affordable housing through all means of delivery.”

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