Millions to be invested in social housing

PUBLISHED: 10:41 04 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:43 15 June 2010

GOOD quality, affordable homes, of the right size and in a suitable location, should be available to all in East Devon.

GOOD quality, affordable homes, of the right size and in a suitable location, should be available to all in East Devon. That's the vision outlined by East Devon District Council's housing service in its Housing Strategy 2008 - 2011, which was approved by the Council's Executive Board at its meeting last night (Wednesday, December 3).

Providing more affordable housing and improving tenants' homes and services are two of the main aims highlighted in the strategy, which looks at the key challenges that the Council and its partner agencies will face over the next three years.

The strategy, which has been consulted on widely, makes an assessment of the local housing market and housing needs and the condition of the council's housing stock, presenting a series of priorities and actions for the future.

Significant developments have taken place since the Housing Strategy 2004-2007 was drawn up in 2004. The Housing Service has undergone a housing stock options appraisal and an Audit Commission inspection of housing management services, both of which have influenced its 'direction of travel'. The Housing and Social Inclusion Service was restructured two years ago and two new units formed - the Housing Strategy Unit and the Housing Business Unit, which has helped separate our strategic from our operational functions.

Delivering at least 200 affordable homes across the district from 2008-2011, with an aspiration to deliver up to 300 a year from 2011-2015, is the target. The Exeter and Torbay Strategic Housing Market Assessment 2007 supports a need for an affordable housing development in the short term (next five years) of 1,250 new homes. We recognise how difficult this will be in the current economic climate but anything less would signal lack of commitment to provide what we know is needed.

Councillor Miss Jill Elson, EDDC's Portfolio Holder Communities, said: "We are continuing to work closely with our development partners, Housing Associations and land-owners to try and provide these much needed affordable homes. For the first time in many years, the Council will be building property for its own stock, with two purpose-built bungalows for disabled use, located in Sidmouth.

"The Housing Service is working closely with a number of developers and we anticipate that three rural housing developments that are currently being progressed will provide approximately 47 new affordable homes over the next two to three years".

EDDC is the landlord of 4,298 tenanted properties, 176 leasehold flats and 761 garages (as at April 2008) and has a responsibility to ensure these properties are well maintained and upgraded. All EDDC's homes meet the Decent Homes Standard (a Government set target, which must be met by 2010, to ensure all social housing is wind and weather tight, warm and has modern facilities), the result of many years of careful investment and a commitment to provide tenants with somewhere suitable to live.

In 2007/08 the Council spent £4.5 million on work to tenants' homes and similar amounts will be spent in 2008/09 and 2009/10. The overwhelming majority of this work is carried out by local East Devon firms, who have tendered and won the business. Improvements will include re-roofing, kitchen modernisation, rewiring, boiler replacement and replacement doors. Guidance from consultants and the Government model for business planning has been used to draw up these programmes.

In addition, £1.1 million will be spent each year on response repairs which, in 2007/08, numbered almost 10,000. With a customer service centre available to take calls, partnering arrangements with five contractors, and a performance monitoring system that helps manage contractors' workloads and response times, the Council is committed to providing a high level of support to its tenants and leaseholders.

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