Shaping social housing for the future

Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will consider the future of social housing this week – with a blueprint for quality and sustainable homes for tenants in safe neighbourhoods.

They are to discuss the development of its new Housing Revenue (HRA) 30-year business plan at meetings this week – setting out the long-term priorities, plans and actions for council housing.

Babergh District Council already maintains more than 4,000 council properties for tenants, while Mid Suffolk has 3,745 properties within its council stock, but demand continues to outstrip social housing availability, with a further 798 households on the waiting list for Babergh and 581 in Mid Suffolk.

The proposed business plans outline how the councils will invest more than £30 million in improving existing homes to ensure they are energy efficient – supporting the councils’ commitment to tackle climate change – as well as building new homes to offer a range of good quality, affordable social housing for residents across the districts.

If approved, the seven key priorities for council housing over the next five years will be:

1.           Tackling and adapting to climate change

•           investing in council homes to improve their overall energy efficiency, helping the environment, and reducing tenants’ energy costs; and ensuring that each property possible has a minimum an energy efficient C rating by 2030 through a £30m retrofit programme (£16m in Babergh and £14.5m in Mid Suffolk).

2.           Developing new council housing

•            aiming to build/acquire 65 new homes in each district per year, for each of the next six years.

3.           Investing in current homes

•            improving the quality of existing homes and communal areas.

4.           Involving tenants in the running of the housing service

•            putting tenants being at the heart of decision-making and ensuring they have a say in shaping housing provision and the service they receive.

5.           Improving services for tenants

•            learning from every complaint and aiming to exceed the new Regulatory Framework and Standards.

6.           Improving the neighbourhoods that are managed

•            improving existing parking provision, including EV charging; and improving the quality of estates through the development of a neighbourhoods strategy.

7.           Implementing digital transformation

•            building tenants’ digital skills and ability and using digital tools to put information at tenants’ fingertips whenever they need it.

Babergh’s cabinet member for housing, Jan Osborne, said: “Ultimately, this is about our ability to provide safe, affordable, and decent homes, which support people’s quality of life. We also need to ensure that our council housing is sustainable and meets the needs for today and for future generations.  Ensuring we have a robust and financially sustainable plan to deliver this has become ever more crucial since government’s reform of the rules governing local authority housing finance and the introduction of the self-financing system a decade ago.”

As well as looking at predicted income and expenditure, the plans also incorporate feedback from hundreds of existing tenants – from consultations carried out during 2021 and 2022.

Mid Suffolk’s cabinet member for housing, Lavinia Hadingham, added: “We need tenants to feel empowered to have their say in their homes are managed and to ensure everyone has somewhere that they are proud to call home – so of course it is important to seek their views and to ensure that they are at the heart of our future decision-making. Their feedback, together with other consultation, research and scenario testing and design means that we can have confidence in a plan with specific, measurable and realistic targets – and we look forward to continuing to work with our tenants as we deliver these improvements.”

The plan will be heard by councillors at this week’s Full Council meetings ahead of a decision being made by Babergh and Mid Suffolk cabinets in July.

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