Europe’s first council houses were built in Liverpool 150 years ago and now the city council is looking to bring them back again to address the shortage of social housing. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool’s plan to build its first council houses in 30 years is moving closer to reality as the city council appoints a team to deliver thousands of new homes.
Europe’s first council houses were built in Liverpool 150 years ago. But the council house fell out of fashion for Governments from the 1980s onwards with right-to-buy and a large scale transfer to housing associations causing the stock of social housing to dwindle.
Now, with a chronic shortage of affordable and social housing across the UK, the council house is making a comeback.
The Government has told Liverpool City Council it can start building social housing again and has confirmed it will not have to repay the £735m of debt written off when it transferred the last of its stock to housing associations in the late 2000s.
Combined with a successful application to become a Homes England funding partner in November 2019, the council will lead the way as a key housing enabler and wants to embed this ambition within its housing function.
As a result of this significant policy change, a report being considered by the Cabinet this Friday this seeks approval to establish a new strategic housing delivery team. It has been tasked with working up further plans for an initial phase of delivery, which will contribute to the city’s need to develop 30,000 new homes by 2030
They will bring forward a viable portfolio of sites for development, whilst working with the Combined Authority and Homes England to promote larger, strategic sites through the forthcoming strategic housing and infrastructure fund.
The team will also oversee the council’s plans to retrofit 4,000 homes in an energy-efficiency drive to make Liverpool a carbon neutral city by 2030. The funding request for this scheme was recently submitted to central Government as part of the council’s wider economic recovery plan.
A key element in the cabinet report is the transfer of staff from Liverpool Foundations Homes (LFH), which was set up before the Government’s policy change, to deliver mixed tenure (for rent and sale) homes across the city.
LFH will continue to operate as a stock holding company owned by Liverpool City Council, providing the flexibility to do mixed tenure schemes in partnership with the council. LFH will retain its responsibilities as an operational landlord, and existing LFH properties and tenants will be unaffected by this change.
Frank Hont will remain as chairman of LFH, while chief executive Mark Kitts will be seconded back to the council’s regeneration directorate to oversee the new housing team, supported by Louise Davies, development director of LFH, who will lead on housing delivery and enabling for the council.
Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “Liverpool pioneered public sector housing and my formative years were spent growing up in a council tenement, so I am extremely proud that, 150 years on from the city leading the way on social housing, we are now able to do so again.
“The city has a diverse population with differing housing needs and aspirations so it is important that we do what we can to help people in every situation to get the home they deserve, and we need to rebalance the city’s housing market with a wider choice of the homes that people need.
“That is why I have pledged that we will build new council houses, incorporating social and affordable rent, as well as rent-to-buy and shared ownership tenures. I want us to be recognised as a local authority that builds council homes for all.”