This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Housing, Councillor Francesca Smith.
In 2019, the Council declared a climate emergency and committed to working towards achieving carbon neutrality and climate resilience by 2030. As a result SWT is developing policies and delivering actions to reduce the pace of climate change. In 2020 the Council agreed a Housing Revenue Account (HRA) 30 year Business Plan. This plan included an ambition to develop 1000 new affordable homes for the HRA over 30 years. These ambitions have been joined in this proposed pilot scheme to build up to fifty (50) zero carbon council homes and create a blueprint for future affordable housing developments in the District.
During the discussion, the following points were raised:-
· Councillors agreed that it was an exciting project for the community and they were happy to see that Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) were leading with a pilot scheme.
· Councillors highlighted that the locations mentioned within the report were predominantly within the Taunton area and queried whether it would be rolled out to the wider area of SWT.
The Assistant Director for Housing Development and Regeneration and Portfolio Holder for Housing advised that they would look to find supplementary sites to join the scheme.
· Concern was raised that the investment could be lost in the right to buy scheme.
The Assistant Director and Portfolio Holder advised that the properties would be protected for 15 years before they were available to be sold.
· Councillors requested that all types of housing were included in the scheme, including those that required disabled access.
· Councillors requested assurance that the houses being built provided for our residents and reflected the housing needs assessment.
The Portfolio Holder advised that they had requested different types of property were included but that they would be built based on the local housing need.
· Councillors were pleased to see that officers had gathered data and evidence to support the scheme and that there was a show home included for residents to view.
· Councillors were in favour of the project and that it showed that SWT were taking climate change seriously and also what could be achieved by a Council.
· Councillors hoped that the project would show developers what could be achieved.
· Councillors hoped that all new builds would be able to be built in the same manner in the future.
Resolved that Full Council:-
a) Approved the development of up to fifty (50) Zero Carbon Affordable Homes;
b) Allocated a Zero Carbon Affordable Homes Capital budget of £10.8m to deliver up to fifty (50) new homes which would include Right to Buy Receipts on all eligible units plus additional borrowing. This comprised a supplementary capital budget increase of £9.3m and a transfer of £1.5m from the social housing development budget within the existing approved capital programme;
c) Supported the use of underused SWT garage sites and one temporary housing site for new zero carbon affordable homes;
d) Delegated authority to the Housing Portfolio Holder and Director of Housing and Communities, in consultation with the Assistant Director – Finance (Section 151 Officer), to sign off the plans for each site;
e) Delegated authority to the Housing Portfolio Holder and Director of Housing and Section 151 Officer to determine the final funding profile for this scheme once the development plans of each individual site had been finalised to identify which elements qualified for RTB funding;
f) Noted the use of affordable rents for new build HRA homes in line with the 2020 Rent Setting Policy. The affordable rents would be set to ensure scheme viability at between 60% and 80% of market rent; and
g) Agreed to suspend investment and letting of garages on the identified sites and supported the negotiation of alternative garage accommodation for garage tenants and garage owners, and where required the Director of Housing and Communities negotiated and completed the purchase of privately owned garages.