News | 29/07/20

Liverpool’s new era of council housing takes next step

Liverpool City Council is to revamp its housing team to deliver a new generation of council houses.

The city – which built the first council houses in Europe 150 years ago – was given the green light last year to construct a new generation of local authority homes for the 21st century.

The Government confirmed the city council can build properties for the first time in more than 30 years and not repay the £735 million of housing 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 (31 July) 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 Ltd (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 – who grew up in a council property at Kent Gardens near the city centre – 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, in wards across the city that have not benefitted from new build properties for a significant period of time.

“High quality, affordable properties are desperately needed to make sure nobody is left behind and that is why housing is an integral part of our plans.

“Liverpool Foundations Homes will continue to play a key role as we deliver this new era of housing, as a separate entity from LCC that is permitted to build homes for sale and private rent, as well as retaining its role as the council’s managing landlord. The LFH board and team have worked diligently and have laid the groundwork for this exciting new phase of delivery.”

Frank Hont, chair of Liverpool Foundations Homes said: “The board is proud to have delivered the company’s establishment, securing rent-to-buy tenancies of its first properties on Park Street in the Dingle and obtaining planning permission for 105 new homes at Denford Road in Yew Tree.

“It is completely understandable why the council, like many across the country, has taken the decision to change the operational focus of housing delivery, as a bi-product of changing government policy. The council is faced with making very difficult choices and I am pleased to say that housing and the role of Foundations will continue to play a vital role in supporting the council’s ambitions.”