Hundreds of new council homes to be built in Blackpool
Ambitious plans have been agreed to provide 550 new council homes in Blackpool over the next five years to help tackle the resort's housing crisis.
Currently there are around 5,000 people in the resort on the housing register, awaiting affordable social housing - but only 600 properties a year become available.
Around a third are either living in over-crowded conditions, are at risk of homelessness or live in sub-standard homes.
Now Blackpool Council has approved a five-year plan to build 300 new council houses, and to buy up 250 existing properties which will be refurbished and added to the council stock.
Coun Neal Brookes, cabinet member responsible for housing and welfare reform, said: "Tackling the housing crisis is a fundamental ambition for this authority.
"The proposed levels of build over the next five years are hopefully just a beginning.
“Everyone deserves a chance to live in a decent home in a safe, stable and supportive community. We aim to deliver on that ambition.”
Along with properties being bought and upgraded by the council-owned Blackpool Housing Company operating as My Blackpool Home, it will mean at least 1,000 additional homes will be brought into the ownership of the council and its companies by 2025.
Town hall chiefs believe the intervention is vital to creating more stable communities.
Coun Brookes said: “Building and buying 550 more council homes over the next five years will increase the number of council homes available to new tenants significantly and help more households get the affordable rented home they are looking for.
“My Blackpool Home which is owned by the council will develop another 500 or so quality homes for market rent over the next five years.
"My Blackpool Home is also hoping to develop homes for affordable rent in the future.
"At the same time, we expect that housing associations will continue to bring forward new affordable homes."
A report to the council's executive says there are around 3,500 applications a year to go on the register for a social rented home - but only around 600 properties become available to new tenants each year.
It adds the aim of the plan is to "provide homes that existing council tenants can be proud of, and that provide more opportunities for other residents to find homes that meet their needs."
Blackpool Council is one of only thee out of 14 local authorities in Lancashire to still own its own council housing with a total of 4,700 homes.
This means it has a separate Housing Revenue Account to fund council housing from tenants’ rents.
The removal of the borrowing cap by the Government from late 2018 removed a restriction on the total amount of outstanding debt so councils can borrow to invest in more homes as long as rents can cover the costs of repayment.
The report adds: "This change in Government policy offers significant opportunities to Blackpool Council in developing new homes within the town."
The report says while this is the first time in recent years a comprehensive five-year investment programme has been brought forward, it builds on the previous work including the Decent Homes Programme (between 2008 and 2015) to refurbish properties, the redevelopment of Queens Park, and other developments.
The new plan includes:
* Build 300 new council homes, including the 75 currently on site at Troutbeck
Crescent at Mereside, and new homes at Grange Park.
* Acquire 250 existing homes that best meet local needs, refurbish them, and let them as council homes.
* Continue to improve efficiency in the maintenance of council homes.
* Invest in improving external environments on council estates.
* Invest to improve energy efficiency of homes.
There are currently only around 7,000 social rent homes in Blackpool (4,700 council-owned plus housing association), which represents 10 per cent of all homes, which is lower than the national average of 17 per cent.
Stock has been depleted through the demolition of the Queens Park tower blocks which were replaced with fewer, but better quality, low-level homes.
Right to Buy further depletes the council housing stock although sales have remained at less than 20 each year.
The turnover of existing social housing has reduced significantly over the last few years so that only around 650 social rented homes become available in
Blackpool each year compared with around 1,000 a year a few years ago.
The council report adds: "It is positive that tenants want to stay for longer, but this trend further reduces the opportunity for new tenants.
"The housing register receives around 3,500 applications each year in Blackpool from people who would like to find a social rented home, but most of these stay in the private rented sector because there are nowhere near enough social rented homes to satisfy this demand."