Plans for council-owned housing company move a step closer

Sandwell Council is exploring plans to set up a local housing company in a bid to provide hundreds more much-needed new homes for people in the borough.

Already one of the leading local authorities nationwide for building new council homes, Sandwell is looking at new ways to deliver new housing for both rent and to buy.

A report to Cabinet on 26th February will seek approval for a detailed three to five year business plan to be drawn up for the creation of a new housing company. Key benefits of setting up a local housing company can include:

  • Accelerating the number of new homes being built;
  • Increasing the council’s housing stock of affordable homes and replace stock lost through Right to Buy;
  • Giving the council more control over the tenure of properties on offer, such as homes for sale, affordable rent, shared ownership and starter homes;
  • Increasing the supply of specialist accommodation where needed;
  • Taking advantage of funding opportunities nationally and regionally;
  • Developing some of the more difficult sites.

Councillor Wasim Ali, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Inclusive Economic Growth, said:

“We are proud to be one of the leading councils in the country for building new council homes with hundreds already built and in the pipeline. We need to accelerate the pace of our house building to meet increasing demand and people’s housing needs.

“Many councils have set up local housing companies which can give local authorities more control and influence over the type of housing they can deliver. This can also give councils greater freedom and flexibility over rents, borrowing and replacing stock lost through Right to Buy.

“We’re proposing to develop a business plan to see if this option can help with our ambitious housing plans.

“We’re also keen to look at how we can provide well-designed, quality housing for both rent and for people to own, as well as creating apprenticeship and training opportunities for local people.”

The business plan would identify sites and potential acquisitions for development; research rental and sales values, build and acquisition costs; explore financial resourcing for a company as well as identifying a business model with suggested finance, legal and governance structures, and testing out its commercial viability.

If proposals to develop a business plan are approved by Cabinet on 26 February, a further report will be brought to Cabinet later in the year.

A local housing company is an independent arms-length commercial organisation wholly or part-owned by a council which can develop, buy and manage properties both in and outside of its local authority area.

The Cabinet report states that the council has already built 242 new council homes, with a further 202 – including extra care – in progress and another 300 new council homes in the pipeline, as well as we entering into a joint venture arrangement with the Combined Authority to develop the former Severn Trent site at Friar Park which will provide a another 750 new homes.

Current forecasts suggest that Sandwell’s population is expected to increase by 10 per cent between 2016 and 2030, bringing with it increased demand for many different types of housing including owner occupied, private rental sector, affordable rent/social rent, shared ownership and starter homes.


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