Blackpool Council plans to borrow £41m to drive its house improvements programme forward

Blackpool council is aiming to invest another £41m into its arm's length housing company.

By Tim Gavell
Monday, 18th February 2019, 11:20 am
Updated Monday, 18th February 2019, 12:28 pm
The restored Albert Road homes

The council wants to accelerate the ambitious programme, established three years ago, to target redundant, end-of-life or poor-quality hotels, guest houses and houses in multiple occupation.

Blackpool Housing Company has bought more than 100 properties and some of the projects already undertaken and converted them into around 300 homes, including conversions of problematic properties in Albert Road, have been praised for the quality of the improvement works and the positive regenerative impact on the local community.

The housing company was launched with an initial funding pot of £27m, secured through the Lancashire Growth Deal, with the aim of dramatically improving private sector housing standards across the resort and delivering the kind of affordable homes in which individuals and families would want to put down roots.

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Properties that have already been acquired and renovated have been let under the brand of My Blackpool Home, providing a wide range of accommodation options for rental, catering for families, couples and single people.

At the current rate of delivery, the initial tranche of funding is forecast to run out during the second half of 2019.

Now the Council’s Executive Committee will meet on Monday 25 February to discuss increasing the funding by a further £41m to enable the company to quicken the pace of change, with a target of delivering almost 1,000 quality new homes by 2025.

Coun Christine Wright, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The physical difference that the housing company has made is clear for everyone to see on schemes such as Albert Road, Kirby Road and Park Road.

“It is harder to judge the social aspects but even at this early stage we can see that it is making a real difference to levels of transience. The evidence shows that access to a quality rented home is enabling hundreds of individuals and families to settle their lives in a very positive way. This, in turn, reduces demand on other council services.”

Coun Jim Hobson,chairman of the Board of Blackpool Housing Company, said: “We are aiming at establishing a market presence as ‘Landlord of Choice’. Blackpool Council’s innovative housing company is challenging the dominance of existing poor standard small rented flats with a property portfolio that is affordable, fresh and offers a mix of homes attractive to all local residents and family sizes.”

If approved, the £40.8m will be borrowed by the council and then loaned to Blackpool Housing Company at a commercial rate. The rental income generated through the lettings is used to pay back the loan.

The council has come in for some criticism over the scale of its debt after making a series of strategic loans for various improvement projects such as £17.5m for the Wilko's site near Talbot Road. In January 2018 its interest payments on the debt was £4.8m, although councils can take advantage of borrowing at cheaper rates than many other organisations.

The housing company operates on a commercial footing and is independent from the council with its own board of directors.