An ambitious and comprehensive long-term plan setting out Ashford’s aspirations for delivering affordable housing across the borough has been warmly welcomed by councillors.
The annual report detailing the priorities in Ashford Borough Council’s Housing Revenue Account Business Plan covering the next 30 years was presented to Cabinet last night (Thurs 17 Dec).
Members heard that the plan ensures a holistic approach to balancing the need to increase our stock while providing quality, energy efficient homes and sustaining tenancies. Our tenants want to call the borough home and be a part of the communities in which they live.
The Social Housing White Paper talks about eliminating the stigma attached to living in social housing. The report details how our policies will place this respect at the heart of our work liaising with, and providing for, our residents. During lockdown, construction was deemed an essential industry so work has continued as the Council’s new-build schemes are delivered.
The plan can deliver key priorities, even in the context of increased development, management and maintenance programmes – and a pandemic. The effects of the pandemic mean that national political, economic and legislative changes could adversely affect this financial position, so any projects must continue to be fully risk assessed to ensure resilience.
The report sets out the work that the Council’s HRA is undertaking. After a period of pausing to reflect when the debt cap was removed, the Council has set in place a strong delivery programme and is delivering homes in great numbers – well on track to smash the target set in its affordable housing delivery plan presented to members last year.
It is seeking to capitalise on new opportunities such as in the acquisition of the New Quarter building. Following rigorous risk assessments in light of the pandemic, the Council’s development programme is fully costed and the Business Plan illustrates that it is an affordable pipeline of solid sites. An asset survey in 2021-22 will help the Council better understand the condition of its stock.
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The publication of the Social Housing White Paper is welcome and it has put the focus on the fact that all residents must be treated with respect, irrespective of the tenure of their home. All of the measures included in the report are aimed at recognising that it is right that our tenants can put down permanent roots and have a voice. We will continue to provide a high quality management service that will ensure tenants comply with our rules, as we comply with those of the Social Housing Regulator.
The Council prides itself on its proven track record in this sector. Housing is a service that links the General Fund and the HRA, and officers are well aware of the role the HRA can play to mitigate pressures in the General Fund through timely provision. This report demonstrates that despite the pandemic the council continues to perform strongly and run the HRA viably.