New council-owned development company to be created to tackle housing crisis in Northampton

Cabinet agreed in principle at The Guildhall last night to the setting up of the development company
Cabinet agreed in principle at The Guildhall last night to the setting up of the development company

A council-owned development company is set to be created to help speed up the delivery of new homes in Northampton.

Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet agreed in principle last night (July 18) to set aside £20,000 from its reserves to fund start-up costs for the company.

It comes after the council agreed to a three-pronged strategy in February to combat the lack of housing in the town, pledging new builds from the Housing Revenue Account, a Community Benefit Society (CBS) and from within Northampton Partnership Homes (NPH).

Now the cabinet has agreed to add the creation of the development company to its strategy.

Councillor Stephen Hibbert, cabinet member for housing, said: “We have been looking at a four-track approach by introducing a development company which is wholly owned by the council. This will complement the existing proposals, it is not in place of them.”

Cabinet papers say that the new development company would ‘work proactively and collaboratively with NPH to create and deliver a house building programme that produces aspirational housing’ - with the construction of energy efficient homes recommended as part of the overall vision.

The news was welcomed by opposition councillors, although Liberal Democrat councillor Brian Markham questioned why a similar motion he had put forward in September 2016 had not been followed up at the time.

He said: “I welcome the report, but do question why it took the council so long to decide that this needed to be part of the overall programme to deal with this housing crisis.”

Labour leader Councillor Danielle Stone added: “I welcome this as well. Housing is a very complex issue and I see this as part of a jigsaw that we are slowly putting together to combat it.

“I think it would be really helpful to see a refreshed strategy on this issue, because it’s important to see how everything is going to be integrated.”

It has been proposed that the development company focus on three key areas. These include ‘creating more choice and household stability’ through longer-term tenancies of private rented accommodation; influencing the ‘pace and type of house building’ through site acquisition and development; and to support the ageing population in the borough by ‘expanding choice and creating movement’ in the housing market by freeing up family sized accommodation.

Right to Buy would not apply to the tenants living in homes developed by the council-owned company, but councillors were warned the Government could change this legislation at any time.

A business plan is set to be recommended to cabinet in October, when if approved, the council’s chief executive will be able to set up the company and appoint its directors.