The council has ambitious plans to see housing construction on a large scale.
Mansfield is exploring a number of options to promote house building. For example, working with private sector partners, it is looking to obtain funds from capital debt markets to fund new housing growth on a number of housing sites which have been cleared for redevelopment as well as other models such as creating arms length council companies. The changes to the housing revenue account have meant that the council can have a much more flexible approach to social housing investment and it is looking to maximise the full potential of this new way of working.
Although, there is a debt ceiling on the housing revenue account which limits the amount that can be borrowed, Mansfield are also pursuing the option of prudential borrowing through the Councils General Fund to access affordable finance to build through the arms length company route. The Council will make a decision on the most appropriate route which meets its circumstances once a thorough appraisal has been carried out between the option to build using an arms length company of the Council or the capital debt market as a way of financing new build as part of a sale and leaseback arrangement.
This approach will reduce risks for constructors and developers and draw in private investors. It would be an alternative to using traditional turnkey approach to construction of new housing as the level of interest for developments of any scale by private developers is limited in Mansfield.
The council is keen to see housing construction on a large scale, therefore, a business model which will enable the development of new homes, create jobs in construction and the supply chain locally, is critical in an area like Mansfield which has above average levels of unemployment and benefit claimants.
The plan is ambitious – to deliver around 500 new homes over the next four to five years. Mansfield doesn't want to cut corners either and compromise on quality, so the construction of these homes must be to very high standards. The authority are already working in partnership with a new local company (which was formed on the strength of support the owners received from the Council to set up a factory in Mansfield) to build highly energy efficient homes with new green building materials and off site modular technology. The Council assisted the company to identify suitable premises for the factory and has provided land on a deferred purchase basis to help with the cash flow. It is also looking at having a flexible approach to their Section 106 contributions for affordable housing. The construction of these properties in a factory setting will not only reduce costs but also speed up the build process as both site assembly and the construction of houses can be done simultaneously.
However, Mansfield hasn't just stopped there – an integral part of a housing growth strategy has to address both supply and demand so the council are working with a national lender to provide assistance with mortgages whereby the council would provide an equity guarantee to enable first time buyers to get onto the property ladder with only five per cent deposit towards their mortgage. Shared ownership products; rent to buy and extra care homes for older people are all part of the package of products that Mansfield are developing to support housing growth and give local people with varying needs, choice and access to good quality homes in the district.
Outcome and impact
The outcomes from the councils intervention will be :
- new jobs and apprenticeships in construction for young people
- accelerated housing growth locally
- providing a different product mix for a diverse customer base
- physical transformation of communities
- creation of confidence
- optimised construction process without a 'stop-start approach'
- spreading of the risk of investment between a range of partners.
Ajman Ali, Corporate Director, Housing and Environment
Telephone: 01623 463041